Amazon is thinking about ways of parachuting parcels to people after dropping them from drones.
The ecommerce giant has filed a patent for a system that would allow it to drop packages from unmanned aerial vehicles as they whiz through the air.
In the patent filing, published on Tuesday, it wrote that such a system could “forcefully propel a package from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), while the UAV is in motion.”
The patent describes how the drone could alter the force applied to the package depending on where it wanted the package to land. Amazon imagines that the force, which will establish the vertical descent path of the package, could be applied to the package in a number of different ways, including:
- pneumatic actuators
- spring coils
- and parachutes
Amazon said that landing delivery drones creates “time and energy resource inefficiencies, which negate at least a portion of the benefit of adopting a network system of UAVs.”
In other words, it’s way more efficient to keep the drones in the air and literally drop the packages with a parachute attached when they reach their destination.
If such a system was implemented, it’s likely that Amazon would only use it to deliver certain types of packages. For example, it might make more sense to drop a well-packaged book than a set of wine glasses.
In the patent filing, Amazon also described how it could control the package once it was airborne.
“The package can be equipped with one or more control surfaces,” Amazon wrote in the patent filing. “Instructions can be transmitted from the UAV via an RF module that cause the one or more controls surfaces to alter the vertical descent path of the package to avoid obstructions or to regain a stable orientation.”
Amazon is testing its delivery drones at a secret site just outside Cambridge in the UK, which is home to one of its main research and development (R&D) centres.
Amazon has talked about using packable landing pads to help direct its autonomous drone deliveries — when it’s near, put the pad out in your backyard, where the drone will see it and automatically land. It’s feasible that Amazon could use similar targets laid out by customers to tell it where to drop the packages.
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