Amazon has filed a patent for an autonomous airship that could drop packages by drone.
We’ve known for a while that Amazon was exploring ways to efficiently include drones in its delivery system, but an “airborne fulfillment” blimp sounds like a steampunk dream. The patent was submitted on April 5 and filed with the United States Patent Office on Dec. 22.
Its description covers a variety of possible floating fulfillment centers.
“The AFC (airborne fulfillment center) 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. 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.”
Those shuttles could also be used to allow people and materials to access the blimp. Flying warehouses could be used at large public events or crowded areas like sports arenas, deploying items or food as needed. At 45,000 feet, the airships will need to communicate with and obey the rules for public aircraft in commercial airspace. The FAA has its own regulations for airships.
Amazon’s plan involves an inventor management system or several which will take deliveries, handle packages, and coordinate shuttles. A mesh network may also be used to allow the drones to share information about wind speed and routing information. The floating warehouses themselves may change location depending on demand or weather.
While this doesn’t mean that we should expect to see flying warehouses any time soon, it is an ambitious move for Amazon, and one that could change the way business owners think about end point delivery. Details of the patent can be found here.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense