Drone deliveries are arriving at a Japanese golf course

Shopping portal Rakuten is launching a drone delivery service at a course near Tokyo

Golfers in Japan will soon be able to get drinks, snacks, and other products delivered to them by drone while they're out on the course.

Rakuten, a major Japanese shopping portal, will launch the drone delivery service in May at a course in Chiba, to the east of Tokyo.

Golfers will be able to order from a menu of roughly 100 items through a dedicated Android app, and each drone delivery will be limited to 2kgs of goods. The service will be offered daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and suspended during bad weather.

To operate the service, Rakuten has a dedicated drone depot where an operator will pack the goods and set the delivery location. Once the drone has completed its delivery, it will autonomously return to the depot.

Rakuten is using a drone from Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL), a Chiba University spin-off company that Rakuten bought a stake in March. The drone is a six-rotor device that has been modified to carry goods in a small box on its underbelly.

The drone delivery service will launch on May 9 and will be offered for a month. Rakuten says its future will be based on feedback received from golfers and, if it proves successful, the service could be expanded to other courses in Japan.

Drone delivery is being pursued by other companies because it's seen as a cheap and efficient way of delivering small goods to consumers. It first came to prominence when Amazon announced plans for such a service, but has since been tested by other companies including Google, DHL, and Australia Post.

But there are several obstacles to overcome before trial services become commercial operations. The largest of those is the myriad of safety concerns that need to be considered when flying and landing a drone autonomously. The drone needs to be able to avoid obstacles like trees and power lines and ensure that it doesn't endanger people or animals when it lands and takes off.

Rakuten has set up several brightly marked drone delivery points on the Chiba golf course, and the relatively small delivery area means obstacles like trees can be mapped out and easily avoided.

160425 rakuten drone 3 Rakuten

A Rakuten delivery drone to be used on a Japanese golf course is seen in a promotional video from the company.

In one of its most recent promotional videos, Amazon shows a customer laying out an Amazon logo on their lawn and the drone landing on it. It appears the company is considering asking users to specify the exact delivery point by placing such a marker.

There are also several legal and regulatory conditions that need to be met. In the U.S., it is illegal for a drone to be autonomously flown out of the line of sight of the operator, although the Federal Aviation Administration is currently rewriting those rules.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags drones

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?