CB Insight’s Zoe Leavitt recently discovered Amazon had filed for the patent in December 2014 for its Airborne Fulfillment Center (AFC). The online retailer had consequently, in April 2016, received the patent for its warehouse in the air.
The e-commerce giant says that launching drones from the ground and flying them to people’s houses requires a considerable amount of energy.
Amazon says that if it can storing products at altitude in huge floating airships, which they are calling airborne fulfillment centers, and then float drones down for deliveries, they will save huge energy costs.
The AFC will, says Amazon in the patent, stay in the skies for an indefinite period and will rely on smaller airships to restock the flock with more packages, fuel, supplies and drones.
Amazon writes in the patent: “Described is an airborne fulfillment center (AFC) and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to deliver items from the AFC to users. For example, the 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.”
Amazon also says in the patent: “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,” Amazon writes. “Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.”
Leveraging aerial deployment, drones can serve a wider delivery range and owing to the mobile nature of the warehouses, it would allow Amazon greater flexibility in managing inventory when there is change in the demand.
For example, the patent offers a hypothetical case of deploying an AFC near a sports stadium to allow for immediate delivery of team merchandise and snacks during a game, the report noted.
This new AFC concept could serve as a boon for logistics handling, but when it might happen is still unclear.
On December 7, 2016, Amazon made its first ever drone delivery, delivering a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Fire TV streaming device box to a farmhouse in a service the company is calling Amazon Prime Air.
(With Inputs from IANS)