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Look up for dinner: Convenience stores race for drone delivery

South Korean convenience store chain CU’s delivery drone flies across the sky for a test run at CU’s Yeongwol Gongju branch located in Gangwon Province on Wednesday. (CU)
South Korean convenience store chain CU’s delivery drone flies across the sky for a test run at CU’s Yeongwol Gongju branch located in Gangwon Province on Wednesday. (CU)

South Korean convenience stores are testing their service accessibility to remote areas by deploying drones for delivery use to enhance customer experience.

Local convenience store chain CU said Wednesday that it has launched a drone delivery service for the first time at CU’s Yeongwol Gongju branch in Gangwon Province.

The delivery drone, which weighs 17 kilograms and measures 70 centimeters in height, will carry products from the CU branch to Oasis Glamping, a camping site located some 3.6 kilometers away from the convenience store.

The delivery takes approximately 10 minutes, CU said, adding that the drone is two times faster than the maximum speed of electric bicycles.

“Unlike ground delivery, which is affected by couriers’ delivery intervals and traffic situations, we can provide faster and safer service to customers,” a CU official said.

Customers can place an order using the Yeongwol Dro app, developed by Bohemianos, a local drone delivery platform. After CU’s Yeongwol Gongju branch packs the drone with camping items such as water bottles, ice chips, cup noodles, ready-made rice and dumplings, it carries them straight to the camping site based on the geographic information system.

The drone delivery service is available every Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., free of charge.

The official said CU plans to expand the drone service to other regions, following relaxed regulations by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

In partnership with Narma, a spinoff company of the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute, CU plans to deliver relief supplies to out-of-reach areas using drones.

7-Eleven, a convenience store chain under the retail giant Lotte Group, is also poised to open a sky delivery service next week in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province. The company said it will provide drone services for those staying at holiday cottages there.

Customers can order items for camping and other products through a delivery app serviced by Pablo Air, a domestic drone solutions company, which forged a partnership with 7-Eleven last year.

The delivery time takes around three minutes and is available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the week.

“Convenience store’s delivery service business is one of the key growth drivers. We plan to build a next-generation delivery system using drones and self-driving robots as well as expand partnerships with other logistics solutions platforms,” said a 7-Eleven official.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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