Drones are coming – this time in Alibaba’s China!

Image courtesy: Amazon

Chinese E-Commerce giant Alibaba has started testing drones to deliver merchandise. A post on Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao confirms the test: Drones will deliver goods to 450 customers in the cities of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai.

The three-day test programme, similar to the one conducted by rivals Amazon and Google, was launched on February 4. The plan is to deliver the goods in an hour within a set radius . According to a report in Tech in Asia, the drones will deliver “a specific brand of ginger tea, which contains brown sugar and is used to treat menstrual cramps”.

Earlier in 2013, Amazon surprised the world by experimenting with drones to deliver the goods. However, Amazon was not the first to do this. Several other companies have tried delivering packages containing tacos and pizzas using the mini copters. Skycatch’s Tacocopter display at Disrupt SF 2013, Domino’s pizza delivery in the UK and experiments by China’s SF Express are some examples.

Startups and drone delivery in India

Back in India, start-ups are not far behind in experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Mumbai-based start-up ideaForge contributed to rescue operations during the Uttarakhand floods in 2013 with the help of a drone named Netra. This product was developed in collaboration with DRDO. Last year, a Mumbai-based restaurant named Francesco Pizzeria successfully drone-delivered a pizza to one of its customers. Similarly, in Bangalore, Skylark Drones now offers drone-based services to businesses.

While a thousand pizza-carrying drones buzzing overhead may be an annoyance, the use of drones in wildlife conservation and in saving lives promises a better future.