Amazon continues to push the envelope as a supply chain and logistics disrupter with the granting of a patent in late December for what has been dubbed a giant ‘flying warehouse’.
The Amazon Technologies Inc. filing describes ‘airborne fulfillment centers’ (AFCs) comprised of large and robust flying drone made up of numerous smaller drones, designed to make long-distance flights or to carry heavy packages. By comparison, the average quadcopter drone — a design that incorporates four propellers — can typically fly continuously for up to 30 minutes and transport up to 4.5 kg.
It also describes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to deliver items from the AFCs to users.
According to the patent, filed 19 February 2015 and granted 29 December 2016, individual modules could detach from the collective drone body once they were no longer required, and operate independently to deliver smaller burdens.
The filing stated: “For example, the AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (for example, 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. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.”
The filing continued: “An AFC may navigate to an area based on various positioning factors. For example, a temporal event (e.g., a football game) may be expected to produce a demand for certain types of items (for example, sporting paraphernalia, food products, etc.).
“In advance of the event, the items may be delivered to the AFC in a quantity sufficient to satisfy the expected demand and the AFC may navigate to a position such that UAVs deployed from the AFC can safely navigate to the location of the event and deliver the items, thereby satisfying the demand.
“In some implementations, the AFC may navigate to a lower altitude and provide advertising for the temporal event or for other occasions (e.g., product announcements, product releases, sales).”
In a separate patent filing, Amazon was granted a new patent at the end of last month to protect its drones from possible threats and attackers with drawings detailing the possibility of a drone being fired upon by a bow and arrow.