Online shopping giant Rakuten Inc. is venturing into the uncharted territory of drone delivery, enabling golfers to order snacks, beverages and golf equipment while playing a round.
Rakuten on Monday announced the nation's first drone delivery service, a monthlong experiment from May 9 at Camel Golf Resort in Chiba Prefecture. Rakuten will then consider whether to continue and expand the service based on the results.
"We decided to provide a delivery service in golf parks, since there are regulations that restrict drones from flying over crowded areas such as (urban) yards and verandas," said a Rakuten spokeswoman.
A smartphone Android application will be used by golfers to have food, drink and equipment delivered to fixed pickup points. It allow users to place and verify orders, and gives notification of departure and when the package has been dropped.
A membership account with Rakuten's online store is required, and users can pay for the service using a credit card or the store's shopping points system.
Operators will pack ordered items, which cannot exceed 2 kg in total, onto the drone and initiate the delivery process. The drone will then fly to the designated pickup point automatically.
The drone is one named Tenku, jointly developed by Rakuten and Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory Ltd. (ACSL). Rakuten initiated its development in March.
Tenku will be equipped with a load-release feature and new image recognition technology that helps it make a safe landing. It also has an autopilot system developed by ACSL that ensures stable flights even in a strong wind.
"At this point, we will only be providing the service at one golf course, but we have a vision of providing package delivery in disaster areas, although we don't have specifics in terms of when and what," the spokeswoman said.