What happened: Chinese online retailer JD.com has announced a partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, which will deploy the Chinese e-commerce giant’s drone delivery and unmanned vehicle service in Japan. Rakuten has over 20 years of experience with commerce and IT in Japan and launched a drone delivery service in 2016. JD.com started trialing drone flights in the same year. It is currently operating or testing drones for delivery in Beijing, as well as the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Jiangsu.
Why it’s important: JD.com began developing its drone program in 2015, in its JDX innovation lab. It is the only company in its native country with a regional license to deploy drones for logistics. Lately, the company has been trying to expand its drone solutions beyond China. In January 2019, JD.com announced the success of its first government-approved drone test flight in Indonesia, opening the door for future commercial drone use in the region. JD’s push for unmanned aerial vehicles is part of a wider trend. Chinese tech giants, like Alibaba and Meituan, are pushing for automated delivery. McKinsey estimates that autonomous vehicles, such as drones, will deliver 80% of all goods in less than a decade.