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Japan Airlines

Japan’s flagship airline has joined a consortium of transportation and technology specialists to test drone deliveries of medicines and food in Tokyo.

Japan Airlines (OTCMKTS: JAPSY), along with KDDI Corp., East Japan Railway, Weathernews and Terra Drone Corp., announced the project with the Tokyo government on Monday.

“Due to the lack of delivery personnel and the impact of the global pandemic, the necessity to respond to changes in the logistics industry has become real and the use of drones may help realize automatic, contactless delivery,” the participating companies said in a press release.

KDDI will provide the drone operations platform for the project. Japan Airlines will offer safety management of flights, business development and feasibility assessment of pharmaceutical deliveries, while East Japan Railway will allow the tests to be performed from its stations. Weathernews will supply weather data for flights, and Terra Drone will offer air traffic control support.

The project developers said they are particularly focused on developing efficient and safe drone operations in urban settings.

To demonstrate the use of drones for pharmaceutical deliveries, the project will transport medicines from Mediceo Corp.’s Tokyo warehouse to nearby St. Luke’s International Hospital. Food deliveries will be tested from restaurants to offices in close proximity to the East Japan Railway stations in Tokyo.

The project began in August and will end in March 2022. A budget to support the project in 2021 is expected to be approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is expected soon.

Drone industry analyst Michael Blades, vice president of aerospace, defense and security at Frost & Sullivan, told American Shipper that although the project is not unique, he believes that it is “a solid plan.”

“Tokyo can benefit greatly from this capability because there are many natural barriers, especially when it comes to the islands that are part of the city,” Blades said. “I expect there will be many similar tests and trials in the wake of COVID — the pandemic may just accelerate the adoption of drones and public acceptance for delivery of critical items and services.”

Freight transportation services providers throughout the world have stepped up their interest in the prospects of drone delivery in recent years. In the U.S., Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and UPS (NYSE: UPS) are working with technology developers and government regulators to develop drone-based parcel delivery services.

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Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.