JD X taps Nvidia for drone deliveries, rescue and agricultural use

GPU maker Nvidia has announced that it will work with retail giant JD.com to help with an outdoor robotics initiative that sprung out of JD X, the commerce company’s innovation lab. JDrone and JDrover are two new robots, the former aerial and the latter ground-based, and both Nvidia’s Jetson platform for embedded AI-based navigation intelligence.

JDrover is going to be put to use for last-mile deliveries starting on college campuses in China, including at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, as well as at Bejing’s Tsighua University and Renmin University of China. JD and Nvidia say “hundreds” of the units, which are essentially cargo containers sat atop four wheels, will be rolled out across university campuses in the country over the course of the next year.

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JD is using Nvidia’s Jetson platform to give the autonomous rolling robots the ability to navigate streets and even weave through crowds of passengers, as well as obey traffic lights and street signs, all thanks to on board image processing and analysis made possible via Jetson, which is Nvidia’s tool for powerful computing at the edge, right where sensing data is gathered.

JDrone (perhaps you’ve figured out the clever theme already) can fly up to around 62 mph, and carry as much as 66 lbs (though ones that can carry up to 440 lbs are already in testing). JD hopes to get as many as 1 million of these flying over the next half-decade, in order to deliver goods including food and medicine, as well as spray pesticides for crops and even engage in search and rescue missions.

Again, JD X is using Nvidia’s Jetson to enable onboard intelligent decision-making capabilities. Already, the retailer says it’s managed to reduce logistics costs by up to 70 percent in terms of making deliveries to more remote communities in China.