“Special delivery” has new meaning if the package arrives by a drone or robot.
That world’s not far off, as attendees of GTC China — the first in a series of NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conferences being held this fall around the world — are finding out this week when they step into the conference’s outdoor robotics area. There they’ll find JDrone and JDrover, the latest creations from JD X, the innovation lab for e-commerce giant, JD.com.
NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang announced the companies’ collaboration to bring AI to logistics and delivery using autonomous machines, powered by the NVIDIA Jetson supercomputer on a module, during his keynote address at the two-day event in Beijing.
AI plays a critical role in this effort, and many industries will benefit.
JD X has rolled out a pilot initiative in conjunction with provinces such as Beijing, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Jiangsu to use drones for delivery, agriculture and search and rescue. JD X estimates it will release more than 1 million drones over the next five years.
With Jetson’s high performance, low power, small form factor and advanced vision capabilities, JDrones can fly up to 100 kph and deliver packages weighing up to 30 kg — with others being tested to carry as much as 200 kg.
The goal is to bring e-tail to rural areas where it’s been a challenge to do business due to poor transportation infrastructure. JD.com has been able to reduce its logistics fees by 70 percent, while delivering fresh food and medicine to remote locations to the benefit of communities and the economy.
And the benefits go beyond delivery. Recently, a plague of insects struck Xingcheng City in China’s northeast Liaoning province. To minimize the loss to local farmers, JD X dispatched 20 drones to spray pesticides. Over five days, 500 hectares were treated, which would have required 50 people using traditional methods 200 days to complete.
JD X is also releasing its JDrover for last-mile deliveries on campuses such as Renmin University of China and Tsinghua University in Beijing, along with Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province. Hundreds of JDrovers will planned to be deployed across different university campuses nationwide within the next year.
Using Jetson, this delivery robot can easily navigate through crowded streets by identifying faces, pedestrians, traffic lights, signs and more. Packages are delivered to customers that have purchased items through JD.com’s online mall, ranging from books and snacks to electronics. As more data is collected and algorithms are optimized, JD X expects to deploy the rover in more complicated scenarios across China.
“Complex outdoor situational awareness requires a platform that delivers unprecedented capabilities for deep learning and visual processing in a small form factor,” said Yuqian Li, head of JDrover team at JD X. “The high performance of Jetson combined with its low power consumption and cost was the reason why we selected it for all of our logistics and delivery initiatives.”
Pick & Place Robots: Thinking Outside the Mailbox
The China General Post Office estimates that the growth rate of express deliveries has exceeded 50 percent consecutively over the past six years and will reach 30 billion parcels in 2017, making China the biggest express market worldwide.
To address this, JD X recently unveiled the world’s first autonomous unmanned sorting center in KunShan, in Jiangsu province. Up to 9,000 parcels per hour can be sorted, saving 180 work days and increasing efficiency by 3x compared to traditional methods.
Be sure to see these technologies and more this week at GTC China, in Beijing.