Amazon Patent Details Flying Mothership Warehouse Deathstar That Deploys Delivery Drones

Amazon may not be racing around the world in eighty days, but it has an eye on the sky. A recent United States patent application revealed that Amazon plans to develop a flying, zeppelin-like warehouse that would deploy delivery drones.

Amazon has dubbed its portable warehouse as an “airborne fulfillment center” or AFC. The AFC would house unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones that would deliver items from the AFC to customers. Some of the UAV’s would be temperature-controlled in order to deliver food. Amazon also plans to develop shuttles that would transport goods, drones, and people from the AFC to the ground and vice versa.

afc plans

The drones, however, would be used for more than just physical deliveries. The patent also implies that there would be a network that the drones could use to communicate with each other. They would be able to relay messages about the weather, wind speed, or routing. The drones could also send digital materials, like e-books, to customers on the ground.

Why does Amazon think we need a delivery zeppelin in the sky? Is Amazon Prime not already sufficient? Amazon argues that it would position its AFC above areas predicted to have a rising demand for specific items. The example used in the patent was for a sporting event. Ideally, the AFC would hover over a sporting event and be ready to deliver snacks, souvenirs, audio and outdoor displays.

prime air 1

The AFC could potentially solve many of Amazon’s drone issues. Drones can only deliver a small number of items and flights can only occur during the daylight hours, in good weather, and within a limited radius. The AFC would allow more drones to deliver more items to an increasing number of customers.

The filing for the AFC is just one of the many steps Amazon has taken to enable drone delivery. This past month the corporation completed its first Prime Air drone delivery in the United Kingdom. The drone delivered an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to customer "Richard B" in just thirteen minutes.