Amazon’s Idea of a Flying Warehouse, Using Drone to Deliver Parcels in Minutes, Granted Patent

Amazon is now going to store its products in the air.

A patent for a giant flying warehouse that acts as a launchpad for drones to deliver items within minutes has been granted to the worlds’ biggest online retailer recently.

At an altitude of around 45,000, an “airborne fulfillment center” (AFC) such as an airship or blimp that would float there, and plans for which was described recently by the U.S. e-commerce giant. A lot of products would be stocked on the airship.

The package would be delivered by a drone or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) which will fly down when a customer places an order. Since the drone would be gliding down rather than having to take off and land, this would require little power insists Amazon.

“When the UAV departs the AFC, it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends,” the patent filing explains.

A number of uses for the warehouse blimp were revealed by Amazon’s filing. Customers wanting certain items such as food or merchandise during a football match are an example. Items would be stocked up at the AFC ahead of the game and during the football match those would be deploy to deliver products. By allowing customers to order the items on display, the airship could also be used as a giant advertising board. All of these can be ordered “within minutes”.

In order to give information such as weather and route, the drones would be able to communicate with each other via a mesh network. UAVs could also recharge on the airship.

The blimp would be refueled and replenished using a shuttle and would remain in the air, Amazon’s filing explains. The second airplane would be able to unload products as well as fuel and could be a smaller aircraft capable of docking onto the AFC.

Amazon would likely need regulatory approval from aviation authorities which could be complex if this plan saw the light of day.

After CB Insights analyst Zoe Leavitt found the document and tweeted it, the patent filing was only circulated this week even though it was awarded in April this year.

I relation to drone delivery, this isn’t the first patent that Amazon has been awarded. Plans at using tall buildings and structures such as lampposts or churches as docking stations for drones to recharge by Amazon was revealed in a patent in July. To plan routes and communicate, how drones would “talk” to each other forms the subject of another patent.

Amazon is pushing ahead with plans to make widely available its drone delivery after the company successfully trialed its first delivery by drone in the U.K. earlier this month. It does no mean that all the patents that that the U.S. firm files and is awarded would be put into use or made into a reality.

(Adapted from CNBC)

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Categories: Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Strategy

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