The world’s largest online retailer has filed for a patent for an airborne flying warehouse. The patent was filed in 2014, but it has just now come to the attention of the public because of the work of Zoe Leavitt, a financial analyst with venture capital company CB Insights. Amazon envisions using the flying warehouse near large sporting events and festivals first before eventually using it for home deliveries.
How Would Amazon’s Flying Warehouses Change the World?
When Zoe Leavitt found the documents he tweeted:
“I just unearthed the Death Star of #ecommerce via @cbinsights… AMZN patent for airborne warehouses at 45K ft spitting out delivery drones.”
Despite being asked for comments, Amazon has remained quiet on the subject.
The patent papers envision a flying warehouse that would hover about 45,000 feet in the air. In the beginning, the warehouse would be stocked with things that a person attending a sports event or a festival would need. This could include t-shirts, sodas, and souvenirs. The warehouse would be stocked by drones who would also carry workers to the flying store. The drones would also carry workers to the depot that would remain about 45,000 feet above the ground.
Once a person decided that they wanted to place an order, they would simply use their smartphone or other devices to place the order. Then, a drone would deliver the item to the person before returning to the warehouse and repeating the process many times. The company plans on constructing poles where the drones could be docked when not in use.
Paperwork with the patent does not see the usefulness of the flying warehouse ending there. They say that the outside of the warehouse could be used to show advertising at events. They also envision the warehouse acting as a mobile hotspot allowing attendees to download special materials without using their data.
Eventually, the patent paperwork indicates that Amazon would like to see several warehouses in the sky. Then, a person could order almost anything from the warehouse and have it delivered by a drone. A chef could even order food from the warehouse because Amazon envisions part of the warehouse remaining cold. Drones could deliver food in under 30 minutes, so no more last minute trips to the store after the one item that they forgot to buy.
When Will the Amazon Flying Warehouses be Built?
Many companies file patent requests for projects that never become a reality. This project that Amazon is calling Prime Air must overcome several obstacles before it can become a reality. Logan Campbell, a consultant with drone consulting firm Aerotas, says that the project must overcome both technology problems and governmental regulation problems before it can become a reality.
In early December, Amazon made its first successful drone delivery. A customer ordered an item using Amazon Prime. Within minutes, the company was able to deliver the item to the individual located about two miles away.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration which is responsible for civil aviation is working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States’ space program, to begin mapping the sky to set up areas for drones. Drones in the United States must currently fly within the field of vision of the operator except in extremely limited agricultural uses in the United States.
The other problem that flying warehouses face is that they are currently very limited in the amount of weight that they can carry. Most can only carry items under five pounds.
Amazon’s CEO first mentioned the idea of delivering items by drone in 2013. Most people laughed at the company at that time. Now, the process seems to be all but a reality. While it may be a few years off, there is almost a certainty that it can become a reality. Problems in hauling items on drones must be overcome. Government regulations will need to change to accommodate drones in crowded airspace.
Image Source: Wikipedia