Seven years ago, a meltdown in a nuclear reactor that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami devastated a town in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. But the circle of life continues, and life is slowly returning to normal in the Japanese town. But in some areas, convenience stores are still out of reach to some residents.
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and convenience-store operator Lawson have teamed up to test drone deliveries in Fukushima. Recently, a delivery made to the residents of Minamisoma, whose population is made up of mostly elderly residents who are still struggling to obtain daily necessities.
The trial delivery was an order of fried chicken and croquettes—staples of Japanese convenience stores—to a 70-year-old man. According to reports, the man was very pleased with the order!
As part of the recovery effort, the city is working with the government to turn Minamisoma, a mountainous region, into a testing ground for robotics technologies.
Rakuten started experimenting with drone deliveries last year, and this year delivered hot soup to surfers on the Fukushima coast over a distance of 12 km.
The food items were delivered from a Lawson store in Minamisoma, which reopened in October 2016. Lawson also operates mobile stores, but not all items are available at these mobile sales vehicles. Residents can place their orders at these mobile outlets, after which an employee will call a Lawson store and have the order delivered by drone.
Rakuten said it would test its drone delivery program in Fukushima for six months before deciding whether to make it a more long-term offering. The company said it is also experimenting with using drones to deliver medicine to residents of Minamisoma.