“This is a radical industry right? Once the industry has solved the battery issue, we believe at that time our technology will be mature and we can fully operationalize our drone delivery program,” Chen said.
The Beijing-based firm also said it would continue to work on developing fully automated warehouses in order to improve the company’s efficiency. Chen suggested that if JD.com converted its warehouses in this way, it would be able to store up to 10 times as many goods in the same space.
JD.com has been developing its drone capabilities since October 2015 via its JDX innovation lab. It started trialing flights in June 2016, and is currently in operation or being tested in four provinces: Beijing, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Jiangsu, the company said.
JD.com isn’t the only company looking at delivery by drone. Amazon has partnered with the U.K. government to test drone deliveries and recently designed a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) with robotic wingtips and legs that act as landing gear to help them touch down on uneven surfaces.
The U.S. based e-commerce giant also announced it would open a 60,000 square foot development center in the U.K. focused on artificial intelligence (A.I.) and drone delivery research.
— CNBC’s Lucy Handley contributed to this report.
— Correction: The story was revised to show the number of drones in development is seven; clarify the drone capable of carrying one metric ton is in development; change the weight to 5kg to 30kg and distance to 100km for drones in operation; and specify the locations of operation.