Furthering its desire to dominate the skies—and our shopping—Amazon has applied for a patent on its somewhat starry-eyed drone delivery system. As an added bonus, we get a peek into how in-depth (and starry-eyed) Amazon’s drone plans really are.
The patent application, originally filed in September 2014 but published last week by the US Patent and Trademark Office, details an elaborate system for “aerial delivery of items.” Amazon’s drone aspirations won’t be nearly as simple as “take off from the warehouse and drop off the package.” The drones will talk to each other, receiving information on the delivery environment (presumably weather, traffic, obstacles, etc.) from other drones to update their routes in real time, determining if their flight paths and proposed landing areas are safe and free of obstacles (like people or dogs).
Package delivery locations will be updated as customers move around, so a package can come to you at work or home, depending on where you are when your shipment is ready—including pulling location data from a smartphone. A mockup shows an Amazon order screen with four options for delivery: “Bring It to Me,” “Home,” “Work,” and “My Boat.” There will also be relay locations, allowing drones to drop off packages for further transport, or to recharge or swap batteries. Amazon also wants its drones to be able to drop packages at a “secure delivery location,” perhaps an Amazon Locker or even the trunk of a car.
The setup makes sense in theory. But obstacles abound. The company must clear many regulatory hurdles in order to get its drones in the sky, and if they’re widely used, they’ll require an awful lot of refueling stops. Amazon’s runs many distribution centers across the world, but they’re aren’t necessarily within drone range of most homes.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com