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Drone delivery of milk tea in China

**Drone delivery service has become a reality for Chinese food delivery tycoons.** Meituan, China’s largest online food delivery service, used to surprise when it did. present the idea of ​​delivery by helicopter in Zhengzhou city. The airline has opened more than 5 shipping stations with more than 100 helicopters and handled more than 100,000 orders in 2022. These helicopters can transport everything from food, medicine, household appliances, electronic equipment… but Mostly food and drink. *Technology Review*’s Zeyi Yang had a chance to try this service and got a pretty interesting experience. ## Tried to order food by helicopter twice but failed. Speaking to the *Technology Review* writer, the director of the helicopter transportation division Mao Yinian said that the Chinese are very concerned about the hotness of the food every time. put. “They are very attentive to whether the food is hot or the milk tea is cold enough when it reaches them. But with other items, they don’t even care if they arrive quickly or late,” he said. Therefore, helicopter transport has the advantage that all processes are automatic, not using conventional road traffic, so it is easy to control the delivery time, the food will reach the customer as soon as possible. However, helicopter transportation also has certain limitations such as not being able to deliver to your door. Instead, they will deliver to a certain location for customers to pick up, which is small kiosks on the road. This will be a place to park for helicopters and store goods if customers arrive late to pick up. When using it for the first time, the Zeyi Yang pen tries to find all the pickup locations on the map and chooses the kiosk closest to the train station you go to. He ordered an iced coconut milk tea, paid and waited eagerly. However, he quickly received a message saying that his order would be delivered by the shipper “because of the upgrade system”. At first, Yang thought it might be due to bad weather conditions, the rain had stopped in the morning but the clouds were still dense. But contacting the representative of Meituan, he was told that the delivery helicopter system was still operating normally. It turned out that the reason was that the restaurant Yang ordered food in another district and the helicopter system did not have a route from there to the delivery kiosk but the system did not provide this information. At 19:30 on the same day, Zeyi Yang continued to try again. This time, he chose a pickup location in the same district as the store and only a few hundred meters away. The day after ordering a strawberry butter yogurt smoothie, the system sent a cancellation message. “Drone orders are not available at this time. The order will be delivered by the shipper”, quoted the message. Turns out the helicopter system only works until 7pm. ## The trade-offs to receive goods by helicopter The next day, the *Technology Review* pen had the opportunity to visit a storage station, which is also a helipad located on the roof of a building. 5 storey house. Here, he met some employees of Meituan and found that workers and machines here have equal authority in the delivery process. The process will go through steps including the shipper receiving the dishes from the restaurant, bringing them to the terrace area and loading them into the helicopter for transportation. This delivery station also needs workers to take care of changing batteries for helicopters. According to Yang, the helipad on the rooftop he visited is the support system of 3 other small kiosks in the area. Therefore, the parking lot is divided into 3 different areas, with a QR code printed on the floor to mark the exact parking location for the helicopters. The author of *Technology Review* also found that Meituan trades convenience for smooth delivery by helicopter in densely populated cities like Zhengzhou. Instead of door-to-door pickup, customers have to go to kiosks on the street to pick up their goods. This is a bit annoying, but it helps reduce the risk of the helicopter having problems on long distances, difficult to travel or injuring others. After saying goodbye to Meituan’s rooftop warehouse, Zeyi Yang tried to order one last delivery to one of the three kiosks the station serves. Standing right next to the kiosk, he could see other orders being delivered by the helicopter. This time, the helicopter carrying his order landed at the exact time that the system predicted on the app. Yang entered his phone number and the door immediately opened for him to receive the box. Inside the main box is iced black tea placed in a thermos bag that Zeyi Yang ordered. The tea cup has not spilled and is still cool.



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