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Daily Drip

In Shanghai, You Can Now Get Take-Out Food Delivered by Drone

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Because of course you can. Waimai (delivery) giant Ele.me announced yesterday that it’d been granted approval by authorities in the Jinshan district of Shanghai to operate the first commercial drone food delivery routes in China.

Jinshan happens to be a fair way out from the city center and the 17 routes are all limited to the Jinshan Industrial Zone (a commercial park-type development), but still, the friendly delivery drones will be buzzing around a 58 square kilometer area and servicing over 100 restaurants.

The Alibaba-backed takeaway business says there’ll be an average wait of around 20 minutes between ordering and having a drone drop food into your lap (well kinda, more on that below).

Want to see one in action? Course you do:

As this jauntily-soundtracked video from State media China Daily points out, “workers will still be involved in the delivery process”. Despite no longer needing to race around dangerously fast on scooters in an attempt to get that plastic box of noodles to your doorstep as soon as possible, it seems the drivers will be instead racing around dangerously fast on scooters in an attempt to get that plastic box of noodles to a drone launch platform as soon as possible.

Seems like there’ll still be a boring old human picking up the package at the other end too, before delivering it with their boring old human hands to your door, rather than you just opening your apartment window and letting a drone hover over to your couch. Ugh, human contact.

So are we about to see China’s skies filling with clouds of delivery drones spilling soups and dumplings from on high? Probably not.

This is a nice stunt for Ele.me of course — here we are writing about it after all — but naturally there are more than a couple of question marks over the practical use of drones in this way, with issues ranging from the use of airspace and the costs involved to what happens during stormy weather (often a peak ordering period). Also, none of the videos we’ve seen of the food delivery drone so far show it actually landing, and sticking that landing seems like a fairly crucial, potentially hazardous for your pizza toppings, part of this whole process.

Still, enjoy your taste of the drone-delivered food future residents of Jinshan Industrial Zone! The rest of us are definitely feeling a little jealous right now.

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