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JD.com to deploy one million drones

BEIJING: September 25, 2017. JD X, the innovation lab for e-commerce company JD.com, has partnered with U.S. gaming technology company NVIDIA to add AI to logistics using its JDrone and JDrover autonomous machines.

JD X has rolled out a pilot initiative in Beijing, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Jiangsu to use drones for delivery, agriculture and search and rescue. The company estimates it will deploy more than one million drones over the next five years.

JD X droneJDrones can fly up to 60 miles an hour and deliver 30 kgs packages with the goal of bringing eTail to rural areas with poor infrastructure. JD.com says it has been able to reduce its logistics fees by 70 percent while delivering fresh food and medicine to such remote locations.

JD X is also deploying "hundreds of JDrovers across different university campuses nationwide within the next year" including the Renmin University of China, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou.

Packages will be delivered to customers that have purchased items through JD.com's online mall, ranging from books and snacks to electronics.

As more data is collected and algorithms are optimized, JD X says it expects to deploy drones in more complicated scenarios across China: "Complex outdoor situational awareness requires a platform that delivers unprecedented capabilities for deep learning and visual processing in a small form factor," said Yuqian Li, head of the JDrover team at JD X. "The high performance of the NVIDIA Jetson supercomputer module combined with its low power consumption and cost was the reason why we selected it for all of our logistics and delivery initiatives."

The China General Post Office estimates the express industry has exceeded 50 percent annual growth for the past six years and will deliver 30 billion parcels by the end of 2017, making China the biggest express market worldwide.

To meet this demand, JD X recently unveiled the world's first autonomous unmanned sorting center in KunShan, Jiangsu province. The company says it can sort 9,000 parcels an hour, saving 180 workdays and increasing efficiency by a factor of three.

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