Amazon obtained an intriguing patent for a flying warehouse that would deploy drones to deliver parcels to customers.
It's no big secret anymore that Amazon sees drones as a big part of the future of e-commerce and the company has been making efforts to implement a reliable drone delivery service.
Amazon even started drone deliveries in the UK recently, but that's just the beginning. The retailer has far more ambitious plans that involve flying warehouses and advanced technology that would allow it to deliver parcels in minutes via drones.
Amazon Airborne Fulfillment Centers
Amazon's patent filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) details a concept for "airborne fulfillment centers," or AFCs for short, which would basically be flying warehouses stocked with various items ready to reach customers via drones.
The company would stock AFCs with some inventory and place them near locations where it expects high demand for certain items. For instance, Amazon could place an AFC near a sporting event and stock it with specific items such as souvenirs or snacks that sports fans might be interested in.
Amazon could also stock the AFCs with drones, including models with temperature control that would work well for food delivery, and deploy them to make deliveries on schedule or on demand.
The patent filing also details an advanced network of systems designed to make drone deliveries simpler and more efficient, maximizing the potential of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). For instance, Amazon also envisions large shuttles that could carry workers, supplies, and drones to and from the AFCs. Transporting drones up to the AFC via shuttles would allow the company to preserve the drones' power so they're only using it to make deliveries.
"[T]he AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations," explains the patent filing.
"As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent. Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc.," adds the description.
Workers could also rely on these shuttles to ride to and from AFCs.
The filing also indicates that all drones and shuttles could be hooked together in a meshed network, communicating at all times regarding the weather, wind speed, routing, and others such.
All of these high-tech elements would still need to be tied to inventory management systems, special software and remote computing resources, and human workers either on the ground or in the air in an AFC would manage things.
It remains unclear for now just when Amazon plans to start testing this intriguing concept and when it expects it to be ready for release, but airborne fulfillment centers definitely sound exciting.