Amazon’s future-thinking engineers have been at it again, this time coming up with a design for an underwater storage facility.
As dreamed up by the e-commerce giant’s big thinkers, the aquatic warehouse would be filled with goods stored in super watertight containers, placed there by conveyor belts, humans, trucks, or planes. The containers would be outfitted with cartridges that would act like a fish’s swim bladder, controlling their depth in the water, Amazon explained in its patent.
When a container needed to be retrieved, acoustic waves would be sent to it to activate the cartridge, which would send the package to the surface of the water. So, when a customer placed an order for, say, a pair of shoes, an acoustic signal would go out in the pool causing the cartridge on the shoe’s container to open a balloon and send the container to the surface.
Another option, according to the patent would to use artificial currents to elevate boxes to the top of the pool.
The underwater warehouse concept is meant to address a shortcoming of current fulfillment centres — they are inefficient uses of space, as Amazon explained in the patent. Because they are typically box-shaped and have to leave room for pathways and shelving, lots of space goes unused. In the pool warehouses, boxes could be stacked in endless piles with no need for humans or robots to move around them.
The US Patent and Trademark Office issued Amazon a patent for the aquatic storage facility in April, but it got little attention until recently. It’s drawn more scrutiny amid the company’s plans to acquire Whole Foods, a move which would give Amazon its first large-scale brick-and-mortar retail presence and which could require the company to revamp its distribution network.
The underwater facility is not the only warehouse alternative being dreamed up by Amazon. The company has filed a patent for a fleet of massive storage airships that would be serviced by drones. It’s also submitted a patent for a beehive-like storage warehouse that drones could fly in and out of.
Any of Amazon’s futuristic plans may be a long ways off. To use any airspace or body of water, the company would have to pass numerous safety and regulatory hurdles in countries around the world.
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