Alibaba becomes the latest company to test drone deliveries

It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a tea-delivering drone! 

When it comes to the concept of delivery by drone, what’s not to love? Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has now begun testing drones for one-hour deliveries in China, following in the footsteps (or should we say air tracks) of other companies like Amazon, Google and DHL.


The one-off test, which was in collaboration with Shanghai YTO Express Logistics, was announced on Alibaba’s Taobao shopping website showing a drone quickly delivering a packet of ginger tea to a woman who apparently needed tea in a jiffy. All together, the trial will transport supplies to 450 customers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou over a three-day period between February 4-6, 2015.

What’s more, Alibaba claims that its 49-renimbi ginger tea packets will be delivered within an hour. As CNBC reports, the drones won’t land directly on a consumer’s front door, but outside a residential buildings instead. There, the package will be collected by human couriers who will complete the remaining part of the delivery process.

“By conducting the trial, Taobao and YTO Express officials aren’t hinting that drone-delivery service is ripe for commercialization,” the Alizila blog post explained. “Aviation authorities in China and the U.S. are pondering regulations to govern such activities.”

Regulation is also very strict in China, and operators of drones must first seek permission from the Civil Aviation Administration before piloting the flying device. Like Amazon, Alibaba would first have to abide by numerous regulations if it wanted to truly roll out a broader drone delivery system.

Door-to-door courier service is just one of many applicable uses of these unmanned aerial vehicles — many of which powered by AVR microcontrollers — and rely upon real-time apps. As our friends at PubNub reveal, no matter what the use case is, you need a way to signal and control those drones in real-time. With PubNub Data Streams, you can send and receive data between IoT embedded devices and microcontrollers, enabling Internet of Things developers to build interactive and powerful UAV applications.

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