Look out, Amazon: Alibaba has drones, too.
The Chinese e-commerce giant’s Taobao marketplace has partnered with Shanghai YTO Express to launch a three-day trial of drone delivery from distribution centers in Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai, according to a post on the Taobao site, as spotted and translated by Tech in Asia.
The company describes this as a limited test, but it demonstrates that Amazon isn’t the only company looking at drones as a way to delivery packages quickly (within an hour) to customers. The packages, which must weigh less than 340 grams (about 3/4 of a pound) are being delivered to 450 customers.
An Alibaba spokesperson provided more details, explaining that the deliveries are for “a specific brand of ginger tea packets on Taobao.”
Alibaba is calling the trial a “one-off campaign,” and the company’s news site Alizila reports, “By conducting the trial, Taobao and YTO Express officials aren’t hinting that drone-delivery service is ripe for commercialization in the PRC.” Authorities in China and the U.S. are still considering rules for commercial drones.
In the U.S., the FAA has been weighing rules that could restrict Amazon’s plans by requiring unmanned aircraft to fly below 400 feet and remain within sight of the operator, who would need to a license to operate the drone. The company has proposed using drones to deliver packages in a radius of up to 10 miles, well beyond the line of sight of the person flying the drone.
Updated at 8 a.m. with additional details from Alibaba.