Meituan, a Chinese local services giant, has announced that its drone delivery service has completed over 100,000 orders in 2022 alone and 120,000 cumulative orders since it began its trial operations in 2017. The types of goods that can be delivered by Meituan’s delivery drones have also exceeded 20,000.
Meituan’s drone delivery service was able to deliver goods in an average of 12 minutes, which was 60% faster than the traditional distribution time of 30 minutes. White-collar workers between the ages of 20 and 35 became the primary users of drone distribution services, accounting for almost 80% of the total. The drone delivery service is most in demand for afternoon tea orders, with deliveries peaking between 14:00 and 17:00 daily.
Meituan’s exploration of UAV distribution service began in 2017, and the first take-out order was completed in early 2021. The drone delivery service is available in Shenzhen and Shanghai, covering 18 communities and office buildings and almost 20,000 residents. Meituan has partnered with merchants in the catering, beauty cosmetics, fast-moving consumer goods, supermarkets, and other fields to support them with the UAVs. After partnering with Xiaomi in early 2022, iPhone, Vivo, and other smartphone brands have chosen to cooperate with Meituan for UAV distribution.
Mao Yinian, the head of the UAV business of Meituan, said that the cost of drone distribution will be equal to that of delivery drivers in the next five to ten years. However, the high cost of research and development and policies that need improvement are two major obstacles to the large-scale commercialization of UAV delivery. Meituan is exploring the man-machine collaborative distribution mode to improve distribution efficiency and reduce distribution costs. The use of unmanned distribution equipment can also reduce traffic accidents of delivery workers due to the pursuit of timeliness.
The Administrative Measures for Civil UAVs, issued by the Shenzhen Justice Bureau in October 2021, marks the first time that UAV distribution has appeared in local legislation. Meanwhile, in September 2021, three cities and a district in Chongqing were approved as national civil unmanned aerial pilot zones to accelerate the commercialization of UAV distribution.
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