Amazon's latest patent imagines roving drone infrastructure
Amazon has filed for another drone delivery-related patent. This time, the concept focuses on “intermodal vehicles” that could be connected to trains, trucks or ships to provide loading, launching storage, repairs and other functions for fleets of delivery drones, according to a Business Insider report.
The patent application, which was filed March 16 and is formally titled, “Ground-based mobile maintenance facilities for unmanned aerial vehicles,” discusses how the vehicles in question could load and launch drones while the host vehicles themselves are in motion.
The vehicles described in the patent filing also could be used to “forward deployment of inventory to regions of predicted demand using mobile intermodal carriers (e.g., carriers placed in motion by locomotives, seagoing vessels and/or road vehicles) for delivery by UAVs."
As drone delivery awaits its mainstream market moment, which could be a couple years away (at least in the U.S.), Amazon has been busying itself with dreaming up a multitude of different ways delivery drones could be managed, loaded, launched, maintained and recharged.
Recently Amazon filed a patent that focused on a blimp-like mothership for drones and another outlining a beehive-like vertical structure for urban areas that could launch delivery drones in every direction. It also was awarded a patent covering certain drone security measures.
Figuring out how to provide adequate support infrastructure for delivery drones is one of the key issues facing the sector, and could very well be a gating factor to making drone delivery viable. There is currently no one way build such infrastructure, at least one that is clearly most efficient and reasonable. That means there about a hundred potential ideas for how to build out drone support.
Amazon doesn’t want to come up short in this game by having a fleet of delivery drones ready to go but letting someone else patent, create and get incredibly rich off a winning idea for the underlying infrastructure.
It’s also true that we still don’t know exactly how delivery drones will be used. Will they be for daily package delivery to anywhere, or just in more open suburban or rural areas? Could they be deployed en masse to stadiums or large-scale special events to handle heavy demand? That’s what Amazon’s latest patent hints at. It's an application that we haven't heard much discussion of, but could shape the future of the e-commerce giant's delivery operations.