The latest Amazon Prime Air patent released by the US Patent Office indicates that they may plan to combine drones with trucks, allowing the drones to “hitch rides” on the roofs of their own – and other -trucks and buses.
While Amazon’s exact plans for drone delivery have been a closely guarded secret – see this article about what a journalist went through to find their secret testing facility in the UK – the new patent gives some more details about how Amazon sees the process working.
The application, originally filed last spring, proposes that the drones save energy, recharge, and seek shelter by riding on top of other vehicles for part of their journey. In addition to utilizing its own trucks for the purpose, Amazon is hoping to form partnerships with other shipping companies and even public transportation agencies to give drones permission to land on trucks and public buses. The drones would use identifying markings and GPS coordinates to find vehicles to land on if they were in trouble or out of battery life. This fits in with Amazon’s earlier suggestion that partnerships should be utilized to help in other methods of delivery; such as fitting products into underutilized space on newspaper delivery trucks already scheduled along similar routes.
Amazon states in the filing that the final product may look a bit different than the original plan: “Those skilled in the art will appreciate that in some implementations the functionality provided by the processes and systems discussed above may be provided in alternative ways,” says the patent. “…The various methods and systems as illustrated in the figures and described herein represent example implementations.”
Amazon’s drone delivery program is only one part of what seems to be a larger effort to take control of the entire delivery process instead of relying on other mail or delivery services. Last December, Amazon purchased thousands of trucks; in August, they unveiled their fleet of cargo planes.