Amazon fulfillment centers, typically single-story warehouses located in suburbs, do not meet its goal of low-cost deliveries to city dwellers.
Amazon’s patented solution is multi-story, drone-delivery behive center warehouses smack in the middle of major cities.
If Amazon has its way, cities around the US will have vertical drone centers shaped like giant beehives in the middle of downtown districts, allowing the online retailer to coordinate speedy deliveries by unmanned aircrafts.
The company has filed for a patent for so-called “multi-level fulfillment centers” that would accommodate the landing and takeoff of drones in dense urban settings, the latest example of Amazon’s futuristic vision of reshaping the way people receive packages.
The application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, which was written in 2015 and published last week, included a number of drawings of drones flying in and out of tall cylinder-shaped buildings that Amazon wants to locate in central metropolitan areas.
The centers could be used to fulfill hundreds of thousands of orders a day, in part relying on a large volume of drones that continually pick up deliveries and can recharge their batteries at the site. The drone centers could also have a “central command” to control flight operations, which would be similar to a flight controller at an airport, Amazon said.
UK Test (Well Sort Of)
Last December, the Guardian reported Amazon claims first successful Prime Air drone delivery.
The trial was open to two customers in the UK who have huge gardens, live close to an Amazon depot and want items that weigh less than 2.6kg (5.7 pounds).
I fail to see why a patent was even granted for this concept.
A patent for flying drones out a building? What’s not inherently obvious about that?
Behive Readiness, Suburbs vs Cities
The beehive concept could potentially work in cities or suburbs dominated by single-family detached homes, assuming the FAA will allow such deliveries.
However, I am having difficulty envisioning thousands of drones buzzing around Chicago, making deliveries to the 75th floor of an apartment or to the first floor of any busy neighborhood street with hundreds of people milling about and no place to land.
This is the best I can come up with:
City dwellers with Prime service are given a device that emits a signal. They schedule the delivery somewhere on the street at a specified time. The drone knows the code of the device and can distinguish that person from other random persons on a busy sidewalk.
The Prime customer issues a signal and the drone lands or lowers the item by rope from 50 feet in the air.
Even this remarkable scenario does not work for downtown Chicago where there is an enormous amount of walking traffic and no place to land, and lowering a package onto a crowded street is problematic.
Cities dominated by apartments are not behive ready.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock