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Saturday, September 23, 2023

I bought a bubble tea by drone in Shenzhen

I discovered that the truth of drone shipment is still far from perfect, and individuals might be turned away by the high knowing curve. However at the very same time, it was an amazing experience– the possibility of regular drone shipment feels more sensible than it’s ever been.

Meituan presently runs more than a hundred drones from 5 shipment centers (or launchpads) in the city. Together, they finished over 100,000 orders in 2022. While the platform itself can provide essentially anything, from supper to medication to fresh flowers to electronic gadgets, the drones are primarily utilized for food and beverages.

Why? Due to the fact that Chinese individuals appreciate the temperature level of their meals, Mao Yinian, head of Meituan’s drone shipment department, informs me. “Individuals appreciate it significantly– whether they can get a hot meal or a cup of iced bubble tea in time. However when it concerns other [types of products], individuals do not mind if it shows up thirty minutes much faster or slower,” he states. Because Meituan’s drone flight paths are all automated– and the drones never ever face traffic– it’s simpler to specifically manage the time it considers the meal to be provided. The drones typically show up within seconds of the approximated time.

To have a cup of bubble tea provided precisely when you desire it? As a bubble tea lover, all I can state is sign me up. However when I attempted it out, I learnt it’s not as basic as it sounds.

The very first barrier: the drones do not provide to your doorstep. Rather, they provide to among a lots pickup places spread around the city– vending-machine-size kiosks that operate as both a landing pad for the drone and storage for your plan if you’re late to select it up.

A yellow-and-white Meituan pickup kiosk in front of trees. A man is standing nearby.
A Meituan pickup kiosk at the entryway of a domestic community.


Here started my very first effort. After searching for all Meituan pickup places on the map, I selected one near the train station I was at. I bought an iced coconut tea latte, which was particularly marked in the app as being deliverable by a drone. I paid and started waiting in enjoyment.

Nope. I right away got a text informing me that “due to the fact that of a system upgrade,” my order would be provided by a human carrier rather. Was it due to the fact that of the bad weather condition? There had actually been a rainstorm in Shenzhen that early morning, and the sky was still covered with dark clouds. However when I consulted an agent at Meituan, she stated the drones were working.

It ends up, she informed me, I had actually bought from a dining establishment in a various district, and there were no drone paths that flew from there to the kiosk I wished to send my order to. There’s no chance to understand that from the app, she stated.

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