Rakuten, maturing smartphone based drone delivery service in urban areas of Japan

Rakuten is testing a new drone-based delivery system in urban areas using LTE. The company has just successfully carried out an experiment allied with ACSL and the telecom giant NTT DOCOMO in the National Strategic Special Zone of Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture.
Going forward, the three companies aim to realize a drone-based delivery system for use in urban areas through their work with the Chiba City Drone Delivery Subcommittee.

Following the data provided by Rakuten, the commercial drone market is expected to reach the $13Bn mark by 2020.

The new Sora Raku Drone and Docomo’s Cellular Drone

Based on the experience gained from the “Sora Raku” drone-based delivery service launched in April 2016, which was served by the4 Tenku drone, Rakuten has made further improvements to the product ordering app for users and the drone dashboard for controlling the drone. With these improvements combined with the new model of Rakuten’s “Tenku” delivery drone, which features a number of performance enhancements including water-resistance, Rakuten has been able to develop a more advanced drone-based delivery solution.

ACSL has newly developed the platform airframe, known as the “PF1,” which is capable of long-distance flight with fully autonomous control. The “PF1” has been designed with future flight over the sea and populated areas in mind.- That’s why the drone has been equipped with a parachute to slow the speed in case of an emergency happens.

Rakuten experiment of drone delivery service. © Rakuten.

Rakuten experiment of drone delivery service. © Rakuten.

This way the drone offers a greater level of safety than conventional models. The “PF1” served as the base of the new “Tenku” drone.
ACSL is a company venture centered in the development of drone related technologies in which Rakuten invested last March.

On its side, and as part of its part of its “DOCOMO Drone Project”, NTT DOCOMO has been carrying out several test experiments with its Cellular Drone™  which uses the cell phone LTE network.

NTT DOCOMO has mapped out flight routes that enable stable communication. The telecom giant also monitored the impact of airborne cell phones on the cell phone network at the ground level.

The experiment at Chiba city

In the latest experiment, the delivery of cargo using a drone was carried out at the Inage Seaside Park in Chiba City and adjacent sea area. The experiment, carried out as a pre-cursor to future long-distance delivery by drones, demonstrated that an order placed from a smartphone was correctly received by the drone-based delivery system, and that remote control via the LTE network can be conducted in a stable way.

Image over the headline.- The Sora Raku Drone in action © Rakuten.

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Watch the Sora Raku Drone in action

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