Patent application for Amazon's drone mothership

From Quartz

In a patent application from last month, uncovered by the BBC yesterday, Amazon outlined a plan for its proposed delivery drones to get packages to you in half an hour, regardless of where you are.

Up to now, Amazon’s drone plans have suggested they would arrive at your doorstep, dropping off packages like a smaller, louder mailman. But Amazon’s application suggests the company is exploring ways to have its drones come directly to wherever your smartphone is.

The application outlines a process whereby an Amazon customer orders something small—a book, perhaps, or maybe a box of Tide—via the Amazon app and selects the “Bring It To Me” delivery option. The nearest drone delivery system hopper would then saddle the drone with the order and deploy it to the location of the customer’s smartphone.

Once within range, the drone then will perform a controlled landing by somehow using the camera function of the customer’s smartphone to navigate a path from the sky to the ground. Exactly how is a little unclear, though the patent notes that the customer could theoretically land the drone herself. Presumably, though, the customer would have to make sure their phone was somewhere safe, in case the drone had to make a hard landing.

Not that landing is essential. The patent application suggests the drone wouldn’t have to actually touch the ground to drop off your delivery—it could just hover near you, release its package, and be on its merry way. The filing also says that Amazon wants to its drones to communicate with each other while in the air, “to share weather information, location information, routing information, landing areas.”

There are still a few hurdles that Amazon will have to clear before drones whiz through the skies bearing urgent deliveries of paperbacks and gluten-free pasta. There’s no guarantee that the US authorities will approve the patent, nor that Amazon will end up implement the technology if it does. The company is also still hoping for approval from the US’s aviation administration and other countries’ regulators for use of a drone program that wouldn’t require Amazon to keep drones within the line of sight of human operators. 

Phys.org adds:

Nate Swanner of SlashGear picked up on the patent discussion about how the drone may not only focus on delivering to a desired location but also communicate with one another, "sharing info on weather or landing zones. Those delivery drones may also share info on flight paths; for instance, they'd know a particular highway was gusty from big trucks based on their flight data, and fly a bit higher to avoid trouble or at an angle to ease its entry/exit from the airspace above the road next time, and share that info with other drones."

The patent wording includes talk of a wireless mesh network which may be used to provide communication between UAVs (e.g., to share weather information, , routing information, landing areas), UAV management system, materials handling facilities, secure delivery locations and/or relay locations.

 

Views: 1767

Comment by Chris Ellis on May 9, 2015 at 6:56pm

Well that will make, hijacking, hacking or shooting down drones a profitable business! ... Who needs Santa when presents are flying over your roof! ..... 

Comment by Saeed A on May 9, 2015 at 7:43pm

Perhaps with all these future drone possibilities there will be a need for protection/defensive drones to accompany the cargo drone

Comment by Chris Ellis on May 9, 2015 at 7:47pm

I think the only real defence will be their flying altitude, i must be high enough to be out of range but not so high as to interfere with planes and helicopters? .... it's the old saying, out of sight, out of mind ....

Comment by Jack Crossfire on May 9, 2015 at 8:13pm

They need to override nearby RC pilot quad copters, for a small fee.  Then it would be sharing economy compliant & instantly worth $50 billion.

Comment by Salmon of Capistrano on May 9, 2015 at 11:28pm

I'm still trying to figure out how Amazon's investors are on board with this. Quite an uphill battle to deliver some books and toilet paper, even still if its medical supplies. Getting these things to fly fully autonomously and consistently without mistakes or mechanical/software failure is significant, but then seeing that Amazon's typical customer base is in densely populated areas, likely within just a couple of miles of an airport, they'll have regulators all over them every step of the way. If they do rural areas, their range is pretty limited due to battery technology, and combustion engines are no where close to reliable enough to risk flight over population. 

Am I missing something? Maybe they will pivot to some other use perhaps for military purposes or something. Use for commercial delivery of books and other consumer goods just seems, well, awesome, but from a business perspective, reckless. Novelty has never been a solid and/or long term business success.

Comment by Steve Pennsky on May 10, 2015 at 12:08am

If they pull it off can we expect 3DRUber to follow?

Comment by Giovanni Esposito on May 10, 2015 at 5:07am

It's a joke! Amazon is making fun of everyone, including FAA...

Comment by Patrick Poirier on May 10, 2015 at 7:17am

Well ,I guess now is the time to apply for a patent called:

ARDUROVER DELIVERY SYSTEM INSIDE BUILDINGS, with a ''knock at the door'' robotic arm....

Comment by Bojan Verce on May 10, 2015 at 11:19am
I really have to figure out how to get enough
money and patent concepts like they do...I was dreaming up this exact thing around 3 years ago...and today Amazon would have to buy my patent. Damn it...
Comment by Nathan Rae on May 10, 2015 at 5:01pm

I think I can invalidate most of this patent (Claims 1 through 15 at first reading) with the demonstration of "Prior Art" which was one of the reasons why I described a similar concept here on DIYDrones.com in Feb 2013:

http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/autonomous-uav-delivery-system-...

I now call the project the Physical Package Protocol (as I'm concentrating on the data protocols more than the UAV based technology) which you can now find at www.physicalpackageprotocol.com

So how do you go about submitting prior art to the United States Patent & Trademark Office or do I just wait until someone else wants to develop a UAV delivery network and gets sued by Amazon?

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