E-commerce giant JD will build tens of thousands delivery drone landing pods

China’s skies are about to get as busy as its streets. Chinese e-commerce platform JD has just won the first national pilot for unmanned areal vehicle (UAV) delivery logistics and will be allowed to build tens of thousands UAV landing platforms or drone pods across China. No timeline has been announced for the project’s implementation.

The Jingdong Group was awarded the pilot by China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Authority, Kejixun reports (in Chinese). JD’s founder and CEO Richard Liu (Liu Qiangdong) talked about JD’s drone plans during last week’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. According to Liu, drones will enable JD to serve Chinese consumers within 24 hours.

Drones have been a topic at JD for quite some time since logistics is a pain point for every e-commerce company. JD has founded a special division dedicated to intelligent logistics called the JDX Department which for some time operated in half-secrecy. The department run by Xiao Jun, president of Jingdong X, has already rolled out its own UAV, unmanned ground vehicles, and unmanned warehouses. JD exhibited its drones during last year’s CES Asia.

JD’s current logistics system already covers most of China’s urban centers. However, rural areas remain an obstacle. Richard Liu has claimed that in the future, this issue will be solved by UAVs.

The project also has an international note. JD’s drone pod project has been approved by the China Civil Aviation Administration and aims to play a benchmark role in the future of UAV industry. Testing will be conducted in parallel with similar trials in the US where Amazon and other companies are testing their own drone delivery services.