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July 24, 2013

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Local company takes delivery of cakes to new heights - literally

HAVE the cake and eat it too.

And get it delivered in style as well.

In a crazy story that would make even spy master James Bond sit up and take notice, a local cake factory is using drones to deliver cakes in Shanghai! And China's civil aviation authorities are not too happy about it.

The factory used remote-controlled aircraft on five different occasions to "fly" cakes across the Huangpu River to customers in downtown, claimed Men Ruifeng, the marketing manager of the Incake company, which only accepts orders online.

The drone, measuring 1.1 meters in diameter and fitted with five propellers, flies at a height of about 100 meters and can be remotely controlled over several kilometers. It has two cameras and the controller can pilot it from a nearby vehicle, Men said.

The company has three such drones, all of them refitted from a Chinese-made aviation model.

During one of the "test" flights last week, the drone hovered around the International Financial Center, the Citigroup Tower, Shangri-La Hotel and Jin Mao Tower for 45 minutes before crossing the Huangpu River to reach a customer.

Men claims the air service is quick and more environmental friendly. The cakes too are intended for couples celebrating special moments and are willing to shell out about 2,000 yuan (US$325.8), Men said.

The drone flights along the river have caught the attention of the locals, many of whom praised the factory's creativity, but others pointed out to the potential dangers from the sky.

"What if the cake or even the drone fell on a passer-by from the 100 meters," a netizen asked.

A drone weighs about 10 kilograms.

Another netizen worried that the new mode of delivery could be hijacked by criminals to deliver drugs or even bombs.

But Men said a company staff will keep an eye on the drone and keep in touch with the controller.

Local police said they were also investigating the issue. The drone was used to deliver stuff, making it different from normal aviation practices, a police officer said.

Unmanned aircraft have to be approved by the civil aviation authority before being used for business, said an official with the civil aviation's East China Regional Administration.

Moreover, the company also has to apply to the administration and report its flying details, especially those over the downtown areas, the official pointed out. He said the authorities plan to come up with a new unmanned aircraft management regulation to manage drones that may become a common sight in the future.


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