Korean convenience store starts drone delivery

A drone takes off at an E-Mart 24 store in South Korea to deliver products to a nearby village.Photo courtesy of E-Mart 24

SEOUL, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- South Korea's convenience store chain E-Mart 24 said Monday that drone delivery services at a store in Gimcheon have begun.

The store about 120 miles southeast of Seoul is using the drones to deliver 115 different items to nearby campsites and villages.

Orders are taken via dedicated mobile app, with deliveries happening between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.

The airborne delivery is free on any orders over $6.

The Gimcheon store is using five drones, which are able to fly up to 50 miles carrying 8.8 pounds each way.

"Our store is about four miles away from a campsite. Users of the site can use our app to order food, meal kits and even frozen meat and have them delivered by a drone," an E-Mart 24 official told UPI News Korea.

"Villagers can also tap into the service, saving themselves a physical trip to the store. They can pick up the products from the 'floating station,' a dedicated pick-up location within the village or at the campsite, in less than 15 minutes after making an order," he said.

He added that the coverage area would increase in the future.

Still technically at war with North Korea, the South Korean government had been reluctant to let businesses use drones, objects that can fly freely in the air.

Things are changing, however, with the country's retail industry embracing new technologies.

In 2020, GS25, one of Korea's biggest convenience store brands, started testing autonomous delivery services, while 7-Eleven also disclosed plans to tap into a similar service in 2021.