A few years back, when Amazon started talking about drone deliveries, we were sceptical that they were serious and wondered whether it was in fact a cunning publicity ruse cooked up to establish them as true ecommerce innovators. But as the months have passed it became obvious that the ecommerce giant is utterly serious. It may be a nascent technology, rife with regulatory problems, but they pressed on and made the first drone delivery in the UK just before Christmas 2016 in Cambridge, UK.
But drone deliveries, it would seem, are the very least of Amazon’s airborne ambitions. Obviously what the drones really need are airborne warehouses. And that’s exactly what they have submitted a patent for in the US.
They look rather like zeppelins or dirigibles in the plans. And the roving airborne warehouse or AFC (airborne fulfilment centres) would cruise around and ensure that the swarm of drones are kept well stocked with goods for delivery. The patent application also envisages that supply crafts would service the AFCs to ensure that they didn’t run out of stock to deliver and wouldn’t need to make unnecessary return trips to base for restocking.
Apparently the airships could also be deployed to specific locales where the company expect demand to boom at a certain time. How about souvenirs and kit for a sporting event? Or food and supplies for people at a music festival?
Obviously firms often make speculative patent applications even when the possibility of utilising them is remote. But this doesn’t seem like the craziest idea ever when it comes to ecommerce fulfilment (which we know is a keen focus for Amazon). And if drones really do, ahem, take off then this is a logical step.
The patent application was actually made in 2014 but only recently unearthed by an eagle-eyed analyst Zoe Leavitt who described it as Death Star for ecommerce.