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Rakuten tees off its drone delivery service

Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce group, new drone delivery service will provide golfers with snacks, beverages and golf equipment while on playing a round on the golf course.

Rakuten, Inc. announced that it plans to launch “Sora Raku,” a drone delivery service for general consumers starting May 9th. Its successful launch would mark the first commercialized flying delivery drone service — ahead of Amazon, Alibaba, and a slew of other businesses competing to overcome consumer last mile delivery demands and regulatory hurdles.

Coming to a golf course near you
The anticipated drone delivery service will initially be available for a one month trial at a golf course in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo. Golfers will use a dedicated mobile Android application to order and have food, drink and equipment delivered to fixed pickup points. A membership account with Rakuten’s online store is required, and users can pay for the service using a credit card or the store’s shopping points system.

“We want to firmly build our technology and operational know-how before we further expand the drone service for shopping deliveries,” Mr Mikitani said as he demonstrated the drone on Monday.

Based on user feedback and analysis of the operation, Rakuten will look into the continuation and expansion of the service, as well as its implementation at other golf courses.

The service will use Rakuten’s Tenku drone which was developed with Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory, spun off from Chiba University.

Competitors at the heel
The limited scope of the Sora Raku drone service underlies the regulatory challenges many of its rivals face in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles that would enable cheaper and faster deliveries.

“We decided to provide a delivery service in golf parks, since there are regulations that restrict drones from flying over crowded areas such as (urban) yards and verandas,” said a Rakuten spokeswoman.

Amazon announced its drone program more than two years ago, but still struggles to negotiate the various regulatory hurdles required before setting a launch date for its Prime Air service. Google, Walmart, UPS, and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba have also experimented with drone testing, but remain grounded due significant socio, technical, and regulatory barriers yet to addressed.

Tags: Technology, Logistics, Drones

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