A plane-sized drone just completed China’s first autonomous cargo flight

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China’s largest delivery company completed its first autonomous cargo drone flight

SF Holdings wants plane-size cargo drones to deliver goods to rural areas in China.

Companies around the world are building unmanned civilian aircraft for the freight business

Using small drones to deliver packages straight to your door isn’t a new idea: businesses from Amazon to UPS are already experimenting with the technology. But now the company that owns China’s largest express delivery service is taking the concept further.

SF Holdings said it successfully completed a trial of the country’s first unmanned cargo flight in northwest China last Friday. Unlike some companies that are testing small delivery drones to drop off a single package at nearby locations, SF’s aircraft is said to be capable of flying longer with a payload of up to 1.5 tonnes.

The giant drone is designed to reach a maximum flight distance of 1,200km at a speed of 180km per hour. On Friday, it flew nearly an hour from the mountainous region of Ningxia to Inner Mongolia.

This puts autonomous delivery into a different category from what many other companies have been working on. Amazon revealed last year that its Prime Air drone can fly up to 24km and deliver a package that weighs a little more than 2kg.

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