Amazon drone delivery appears to be making some progress, as the company filed a patent this week for birdhouse-like docking stations for drones.
US Patent 9,387,928 B1 outlines Amazon’s plans for drone delivery, including the concept of using docking stations along the flight path to allow for re-charging or for resting during unfavorable weather.
The entire plan, or “method” as defined in the patent document outlines a process of dividing the flight path from central facility to destination into segments with docking stations along the way; the delivery area would feature a network of drone docking stations. The docking stations could allow for a package to be transferred from one drone to another in a pony-express type of relay; or could allow for a drone to be re-routed or simply wait out a storm based on weather data received.
The patent states that in order to encourage municipalities to allow the network of docking stations, the stations could be repurposed to the benefit of the area. Stations could be used as streetlights, such as the figure shown above; or as cell towers, solar panels, or GPS receivers. “The docking stations may incorporate a number of features to enable UAVs to fly longer routes, to fly routes more accurately, and to provide shelter during adverse conditions,” the patent documents state. “In some examples, the docking stations may also provide additional services to the communities in which they are installed. In some examples, the docking stations can also include various package handling abilities to facilitate package delivery. In some examples, the docking stations may be networked to provide central command and control for the UAVs.”
The patent is the latest in Amazon and Google’s production of new plans for drone delivery, as the company’s vie for the premier spot – each hoping to frame the infrastructure behind drone delivery, and influence the regulations that will control it.