For those out of the loop, Amazon has just been granted a patent for an "airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery," a fancy phrase for what's essentially a flying warehouse.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had already handed Amazon the go-ahead back in April, but only now have the plans surfaced online via the office's website. What's described in the patents, as others have opined, suggests that's Amazon's gearing up for a new-age commercial delivery service, closer to a semi-dystopian fiction than it is to reality.
But all words beeping on the radar, such as "drone," "flying warehouse" or "airship" seem too steep for onlookers to comprehend – none-too-illuminating when read firsthand.
So, to disambiguate slightly, let's break down the elements behind Amazon's flying warehouse.
How Amazon's Flying Warehouse And Drone Fleet Will Work
The patent illustrations somewhat elaborate the logistics of Amazon's patented delivery scheme – but barely. First off, a large airship elevates up the sky, then a goods-saddled warehouse is hooked onto the bottom of the blimp. The sequence is undeniably off here, but the patents are too vague to surmise from.
Nonetheless, that warehouse will be constantly restocked – mid-air – by airships smaller in size, gravitating toward it piecemeal. These smaller airships will load personnel and goods from the ground, while also carrying waste.
People from the ground will browse a selection of items that are floating above their heads at a given time, which suggests that a library or catalogue specific to the airship will be put up, apart from the main site. Or, Amazon could simply add a label to items on its store that will inform customers that the product is eligible for airship delivery. Both scenarios are likely to be fused, for a more synergized perusal system, but Amazon hasn't worded its plans at this point.
Once a customer selects an item, the drones will pick it up from the main airship, slice through the clouds, then trickle down toward the set delivery location. The person at the receiving end is handed the product, then the drone flies back home.
A Huge Leap From Amazon's Current Drone Deliveries
To put it even simpler, this new flying warehouse scheme is basically Amazon's drone delivery service – which has started initial testing this month in the UK – on steroids. What the Federal Aviation Administration thinks of this patent is still to be determined, but as it stands, the FAA is typically apprehensive of air-based commercial operations, having strict measures set in place before anyone can fire up drones in the U.S. airspace.
Anyhow, you can check out the patent illustrations below; have a crack at it yourself.