How Amazon Drone Delivery Will Work

Amazon has been awarded a patent that outlines its plan for drone delivery. The drones will be able to communicate with each other, find the best flight path available, and update the delivery location as a customer changes location.

Amazon has been awarded a patent that details how its drone delivery service will work in the United States.

According to the filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the e-commerce giant’s delivery drones will be able to communicate with each other, find the best flight path available, and update the delivery location as a customer changes location.

Photos: Diagrams from Amazon’s Drone Delivery Patent

The delivery location can change as a customer moves around. The drones will pull your location information from a smartphone and will update the drop-off location once the shipment is ready. This mockup shows an Amazon order with four delivery options: “Bring It to Me,” “Home,” “Work,” and “My Boat.”

The plan also includes relay locations to drop off packages for further transport or to allow the drones to recharge. The drones will even be able to determine safe locations to drop off deliveries.

The filing also says Amazon will select the appropriate delivery drone based on a packages size and weight, as well as the final delivery location. “The UAV may constantly monitor for humans or other animals that may be in the path or planned path of the UAV and modify the navigation of the UAV to avoid those humans or other animals.”

Photos: Diagrams from Amazon’s Drone Delivery Patent

Amazon even supplies a mockup (see below) of what its delivery drone could look like. Amazon admits things could change between now and the time this service rolls out, but this implementation of the delivery drone features eight propellers with the control system mounted in the middle and on top of the frame. This systems is responsible for operation, routing, navigation, communication and the inventory engagement mechanism.

Amazon’s diagram of its delivery drone

This mockup also includes two removable power modules mounted to the frame that could be in the form of battery power, solar power, gas power, super capacitor, fuel cell, alternative power, or a combination of methods. See page 19 of the patent filing for more details about the potential form factor.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2015 granted Amazon permission to test drone delivery in the United States. Amazon must fly the drones under 400 feet and at speeds that don’t exceed 100 miles per hour.

Amazon hopes to eventually use drones to deliver packages to customers at a distance of 10 miles or more. But there are many challenges drones need to overcome for delivery services to be successful, including technology limitations, weather conditions, inefficiency, etc. There are experts who think drone delivery is doomed to fail.

Wired first reported the news.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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