Amazon has been granted a patent for floating fulfilment centres, as a drone-friendly alternative to terrestrial warehouses.
“The AFC (airborne fulfillment center) may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations,” the patent said.
“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 the descent.”
The patent was filed in 2016 but was granted by the United States Parent and Trademark Office this week. It follows an earlier patent for drone-charging skyscrapers, which was granted last year.
The main advantage of AFCs is mobility, compared to stationary fulfilment centres, improving energy efficiency. Filled with helium or hot air, their inventory would reflect the requirements of whichever city they were floating above, and delivery times from a customer placing an order could be as short as 15 minutes.
While many concepts at the patent stage never take off (so to speak), such an idea could drastically reduce Amazon’s operational costs if it were ever implemented.
(Source: The Drive)