An online retailer in China, JD.com, announced this week it plans to develop heavy-duty drones that can deliver one ton or more of cargo. The drones could also be used to ferry goods out of the rural areas, such as fruits and vegetables headed for urban markets, according to the company. JD chairman Richard Liu said he plans to build 150 drone delivery sites in China’s rural districts within the next three years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is second only to Alibaba in the region, already operates about 30 drones that deliver shipments to customers in remote areas of China.
A spokesperson from JD told Recode the one-ton capacity drone should be ready to fly in about two to three years. The company also said it now operates about 20 drone delivery routes, but plans to expand to 100 by the end of this year. CEO Liu said delivering by drone to rural areas can be 70 percent cheaper than by truck, and is much faster.