Meituan presently operates greater than 100 drones from 5 supply hubs (or launchpads) within the metropolis. Together, they accomplished over 100,000 orders in 2022. While the platform itself can ship principally something, from dinner to medication to recent flowers to digital units, the drones are largely used for meals and drinks.
Why? Because Chinese individuals care in regards to the temperature of their meals, Mao Yinian, head of Meituan’s drone supply division, tells me. “People care about it vastly—whether or not they can obtain a sizzling meal or a cup of iced bubble tea in time. But in the case of different [types of products], individuals don’t thoughts if it arrives half-hour quicker or slower,” he says. Since Meituan’s drone flight routes are all automated—and the drones by no means run into site visitors—it’s simpler to exactly management the time it takes for the meal to be delivered. The drones normally arrive inside seconds of the estimated time.
To have a cup of bubble tea delivered precisely while you need it? As a bubble tea fanatic, all I can say is signal me up. But once I tried it out, I came upon it’s not so simple as it sounds.
The first impediment: the drones don’t ship to the doorstep. Instead, they ship to certainly one of a dozen pickup areas scattered across the metropolis—vending-machine-size kiosks that operate as each a touchdown pad for the drone and storage in your bundle for those who’re late to select it up.
Here started my first try. After trying up all Meituan pickup areas on the map, I selected one close to the subway station I used to be at. I ordered an iced coconut tea latte, which was particularly marked within the app as being deliverable by a drone. I paid and started ready in pleasure.
Nope. I instantly obtained a textual content telling me that “due to a system improve,” my order could be delivered by a human courier as a substitute. Was it due to the dangerous climate? There had been a rainstorm in Shenzhen that morning, and the sky was nonetheless coated with darkish clouds. But once I checked with a consultant at Meituan, she mentioned the drones have been working.
It seems, she instructed me, I had ordered from a restaurant in a distinct district, and there have been no drone routes that flew from there to the kiosk I wished to ship my order to. There’s no solution to know that from the app, she mentioned.