Oct 14, 2020|

JD’s Drones Completed Trial Delivery in Japan’s Mountainous Region


by Yuchuan Wang

A drone from JD just finished a remarkable job in Japan.

Rakuten, Inc., a global leader in internet services, has completed a successful demonstration of delivering supplies via drone flight beyond visual range. This marks the first time in Japan that a drone was used to deliver supplies in a mountainous region where the difference in altitude between takeoff and landing locations reached approximately 1600m. The drone and technology were provided by JD.com, China’s largest retailer.

The alpine village of Hakuba, a popular winter sports destination for tourists in Japan, faces significant challenges in transporting supplies between mountain huts. Currently staff either carry supplies on foot or have them delivered via helicopter. The cost of the trips, however, is rising sharply and helicopters cannot be used under poor weather conditions. Thus, Rakuten has focused on drones.

Trials were conducted from mid-August to mid-September along a route that is approximately 5km long, from Sarukuraso (1,250m above sea level) at the foot of Mountain Shirouma (2,932m) in Hakuba, to one of Japan’s highest mountain huts, Hakuba Sanso (2,832m), at the summit and the Hakubadake Chojoshukusha hut (2,730m). Implementing drones shrunk delivery time to around 15 minutes, as compared to traveling seven hours by foot.

The drone delivered peaches, pears, and other supplies weighing up to 5kg from the foot of the mountain to the destination without tarnishing their quality.

Rakuten will look to apply the knowledge gained from the success of this alpine trial to expand drone delivery solutions across Japan.

Last February, JD and Rakuten signed an agreement in which Rakuten will leverage JD Logistics’ drones and autonomous delivery robots to power Rakuten’s unmanned delivery solutions in Japan.

Left: The delivery box being filled with supplies (peaches) at Sarukuraso (1,250m); Right: The drone in flight

Left: Landing at Hakuba Sanso (2,832m); Right: Delivering supplies to the mountain hut attendant