Shanghai YTO Express delivers tea by drone

While Amazon’s Jeff Bezos continues to fight the FAA over his plan to launch an air force of delivery drones, his chief rivals in China have completed a three-day test last week, using five quadcopter drones to deliver tea packages to 450 selected customers of, an online retail site operated by e-commerce giant, the Alibaba Group.

For a charge of 49-renimbi (US$7.84), customers taking part in the pilot project were allowed to order within a 6.2-mile radius of the three cities taking part: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Also, they could only order a particular type of ginger tea that weighed less than 340 grams. Logistics firm Shanghai YTO Express partnered with Taobao on the project.

The drones, however, did not quite go the “last mile.” Rather than deliver directly to customers’ doors, the drones landed as designated landing sites near residential areas, where couriers would pick up the packages for final delivery.

In a post on the Alibaba news site Alizila, the e-commerce company said this was only a “one-off campaign” to test the feasibility of the technology. China’s Civil Aviation Administration has yet to decide on the legality of the commercial use of delivery drones in Chinese airspace.

To see a video of the flight, click here.

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