Drones are officially joining China’s food delivery service.

Chinese food delivery platform Ele.me has gotten approval for the country’s first batch of air routes for real-time delivery drones in Shanghai on May 29. There are 17 routes in total, all located in Jinshan Industrial Park in the Shanghai suburbs. With three to four flights on each route, these drones connect around 100 food vendors.

A delivery person picks up food from the vendor and sends it to a distribution center where drones are parked and equipped with insulated food boxes. Then the drones will forward it to another delivery person who will hand the food to the customer who has placed the order. So, customers won’t directly receive their food from the drones.

According to Ele.me, drone delivery costs less than human labor. Since drones will cover 70% of the entire delivery distance, each delivery person will only drive 15% of their previous routes. According to Kang Jia, Chief Operating Officer of Ele.me, this will shorten the current 30-minute delivery time to 20.

Before Ele.me, a subsidiary of SF Express, China’s largest package carrier, was granted the country’s first license to operate drones for package deliveries by Civil Aviation Administration of China in late March. The company aims to use drones for delivering goods in rural and remote regions in China. China’s e-commerce platform JD.com, another major player in China’s drone delivery market, was granted a license to experiment with drone delivery services in Shaanxi Province in February.

Jiefei Liu

Jiefei Liu is a Beijing based tech reporter. She focuses on the union of tech and content creation and loves agriculture. You can write to her at Jiefei@technode.com

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