Amazon has applied to patent a multi-level beehive-like tower that would deploy and receive delivery drones.
The patent was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office and published on Thursday.
In the patent, Amazon describes the tower as a “multi-level fulfillment center for unmanned aerial vehicles”.
It’s likely that the tower would be particularly useful to Amazon in densely populated areas, such as Manhattan, London, and Tokyo. However, several regulatory hurdles would have to be overcome before Amazon could start building the towers, should it decide to push ahead with the idea for them.
In the patent filing, Amazon writes: “A multi-level (ML) fulfillment center is designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), possibly in an urban setting, such as in a densely populated area.
“Unlike traditional fulfillment centres, the ML fulfillment centres may include many levels (i.e., stories, floors, etc.) as permitted under zoning regulations for respective areas. The fulfillment center may have one or more landing locations and one or more deployment locations to accommodate UAVs, which may delivery at least some of the items from the fulfillment center to locations associated with customers.”
Analysis from tech research firm CB Insights shows that the retail giant has been focused on shortening the distance between warehouses and consumers for some time.
“Amazon has considered various formats for expanded warehouse networks, including flying warehouses, mobile truck-based mini warehouses, underwater warehouses, local re-stocking stations for drones, and now a multi-level drone-docking fulfillment center,” CBS Insights wrote on Thursday.
CBS Insights added: “Amazon has been ramping up its patent applications in supply chain and logistics. Amazon filed at least 78 logistics patents applications in 2016, an all-time high, and that number will likely rise.”
Amazon has been testing its delivery drones at a secret field in Cambridge, which was located by Business Insider, as well as at several other mystery locations in countries like Israel and Canada.
Amazon’s autonomous drones, which are guided by GPS, can fly at heights of up to 400ft and carry packages up to 5lbs, according to Amazon. Amazon has also said on previous occasions that its drones will be able to fly at speeds of up to 50mph.
On Amazon’s Prime Air page, the company writes: “We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of operating environments.” It adds: “The look and characteristics of the vehicles will continue to evolve over time.”
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