Rakuten set to test golf delivery drones

Online marketplace Rakuten is to trial drones and will go head to head with Amazon and Alibaba in competition to be the first drone delivery online retailer. The company, which is Japan’s largest e-commerce company is to begin field trials on a golf course having invested in a drone making company.

Rakuten has confirmed its interest in Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL) that is a Japanese business which develops robotics and drones for industry. It emerged out of Chiba University in 2013 and offers Mini Surveyor drones to automate tasks such as surveying, inspections, and monitoring.

The Japanese e-tailer has taken a 20% stake in ACSL but it has not been announced at what price. The company has said of the deal that the two companies will “work together while capitalizing on their respective strengths in the utilization of industrial drones, in order to deliver innovation to society with technologies and services originating in Japan.”

Media reports suggest that the testing will start by piloting a service that will bring refreshments, balls and other things to golfers on a Chiba golf course. Golfers will be able to order drinks, snacks and other things via a smartphone app and the drone will deliver them their goods in short order.

Amazon and Alibaba are both using their drones to deliver goods to their customers, replacing the courier driver. Alibaba has run a three day pilot of the project last year, while Amazon has bee testing Prime Air since 2013.
This move comes after the company announced a new strategy that will focus on the growth areas of its business. Rakuten close its e-commerce marketplaces in Southeast Asia and wrote down over $300 million in assets worldwide.