A visitor takes photographs of an SF logistics drone at a high-tech exhibition in Nantong, Jiangsu province. The company is stepping up efforts to build a drone network.
Chinese logistics giant SF Express carried out its first demonstration flight using drones to deliver emergency supplies at an airport in southwestern Yunnan province on Tuesday.
The drone arrived at the airspace above a base station at the simulated emergency site after a 30-minute flight. It then descended to the height of about 300 meters and delivered spare parts for telecommunications to the ground in about 30 seconds.
The trial is aimed at testing the company's capability in applying logistics drones in emergency services.
According to SF, the unmanned aerial vehicle for the demonstration operation is one of the world's large-sized logistics drones. With a cruise speed that can reach 250 kilometers per hour, it has a range of up to 3,000 meters. The drone is capable of carrying 1.2 metric tons of goods.
It is the third large-sized drone unveiled by the company following the launch of the first amphibious drone in July and a second one month later.
SF is stepping up efforts to build a drone network, which, the company hopes, could make it possible for goods to be delivered within 36 hours across the country.
Group Vice-President Li Dongqi said the company will launch more large-sized logistics drones for various uses. There are many advantages of using drones to carry out feeder services instead of just traditional air freight, Li said.
For example, drones are a good option for transportation in areas where ground infrastructure is underdeveloped. Drones are also helpful in transporting high-value and time-sensitive agricultural products and medicines to remote areas.
"In China's aviation transportation market where there is a lack of pilots, (the use of drones) could help save human costs. That would not only make operations simpler and cheaper, but also reduce safety hazards," he said.
Zheng Yanling, secretary-general of Shenzhen Logistics and Supply Chain Management Association, said SF has been playing a lead role in applying new technologies in the traditional logistics industry.
"Its attempt to use logistics drones for emergency services will help promote the development of the whole industry," she told China Daily.
At present, there is no technological difficulty in applying logistics drones for commercial use, Zheng said, pointing out that the main hurdle for their wide application remains on the institutional side.
"The government has not fully opened up low-altitude airspace and laws and regulations related to drones need to be improved," she said.
In June, SF obtained the country's first airspace approval for logistics drones. The airspace covers five towns of Nankang district in the city of Ganzhou, eastern Jiangxi province.