Alibaba begins drone delivery trials in China
Company is trialing drones to deliver specific type of ginger tea to limit weight
China's biggest internet retailer, Alibaba has begun testing drone-based deliveries to hundreds of customers, according to the BBC.
The trial will last three days and be limited to areas within a one-hour flight of its distribution centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The Tech in Asia blog, which was one of the first to report the development, said the experiment was being undertaken by Alibaba's Taobao division - an eBay-like marketplace that connects third-party sellers and buyers - and would involve 450 shoppers.
"Even though it's very limited in scope, Taobao is delivering real goods to real people, which is a step further than its Western counterpart Amazon has gone," Paul Bischoff from Tech in Asia told the BBC.
"That said, which company will actually roll out a fully functioning drone-based delivery service remains to be seen and [such a deployment] is still a long way off."
Alibaba is using its drones to deliver orders for a specific type of ginger tea, helping limit the maximum weight of the packages to 340g.
The company's blog said that it believes the technology has the potential to speed up deliveries.
Amazon, Google and parcel service UPS are among other companies carrying out more private trials of such aircraft.
Alibaba has not provided details about how it will ensure the drones do not pose a safety risk.