Chinese local services giant Meituan on January 16 unveiled data regarding its drone delivery business, following two years of normal trial operations. By the end of 2022, the cumulative orders of Meituan‘s delivery drones had exceeded 120,000, among which orders completed in 2022 alone exceeded 100,000, and the types of goods that can be delivered exceeded 20,000.
The average distribution time of drones last year was about 12 minutes, which was 60% shorter than the average 30 minutes of traditional distribution. Among them, the fastest order occurred on March 8, taking only 5 minutes and 7 seconds for snacks purchased by users to be received.
In the past year, white-collar workers between the ages of 20 and 35 have become the main force in using drone distribution services, accounting for nearly 80% of the total, which is nearly 10 percentage points higher than the traditional distribution model. In addition, when purchasing afternoon tea, users prefer to choose UAV delivery service, which creates a peak of delivery from 14:00 to 17:00 every day.
Meituan‘s exploration of UAV distribution service began in 2017, and the first take-out order was completed in early 2021. In the two years since the trial operation, the service has landed in Shenzhen and Shanghai, covering 18 communities and office buildings and nearly 20,000 residents.
Because it does not need to face the problem of ground traffic congestion, the efficiency of the distribution by UAVs is higher than that of delivery drivers. Meituan has now partnered with merchants in catering, beauty cosmetics, fast moving consumer goods, supermarkets and other fields to support them with the UAVs. After setting up a partnership with Xiaomi in early 2022, iPhone, vivo and other smartphone brands have chosen to cooperate with Meituan for UAV distribution. Mao Yinian, the head of the UAV business of Meituan, pointed out that in the next five to 10 years, the cost of drone distribution will be equal to that of delivery drivers.
The high cost of R&D and policies needing to be improved are two obstacles to the large-scale commercialization of UAV delivery. Improving distribution efficiency and reducing distribution costs by man-machine collaborative distribution mode is a focus of Meituan‘s exploration of UAV distribution. In addition, the use of unmanned distribution equipment is also conducive to reducing the traffic accidents of delivery workers due to the pursuit of timeliness.
The Administrative Measures for Civil UAVs (Draft for Soliciting Opinions) issued by Shenzhen Justice Bureau in October 2021 is the first time that UAV distribution appeared in local legislation.
In September last year, three cities and a district in Chongqing were officially approved as national civil unmanned aerial pilot zones, and research on safety, reliability and verification compliance of unmanned aerial vehicle systems will be carried out. The establishment of these experimental areas provides a running-in platform for various aviation tools, and will accelerate the commercialization of UAV distribution in various places.