The Chinese army enlisted private courier companies to assist in emergency missions involving drones, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.
As part of logistics exercises, an SF Express drone was deployed to deliver spare parts for a damaged radar in the middle of the Yunnan mountains. A separate drill in Shaanxi province had antivenin delivered to a poison victim.
In both cases, the operation took much less time by drone than it would have by road—an hour as opposed to two in the case of the Yunnan drill, and only 22 minutes versus two hours in the case of Shaanxi.
Civilian drones are less reliable than military drones as they are by and large less accurate and don’t have the same carrying capacity. But as they are cheap and mass produced, they can be a good backup for military operations.
The People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) has signed deals with SF Express, JD Logistics, Deppon Logistics and China Railway Express, as well as state courier China Postal Express & Logistics, to help address a shortage of manpower in the PLA’s logistics networks.
In the next five years, this co-operation could extend beyond emergency operations to goods transportation and warehouse management.
SF Express currently also reserves space for PLA cargo aboard flights along its new route from Chengdu, Sichuan province, to Lhasa in Tibet, where there are longstanding political tensions regarding Chinese rule.