There have been plans about Amazon’s drone delivery since 2013. Patent filings from Amazon that were circulated by Zoe Leavitt of CB Insights, reveal more detail about how the company could make drone deliveries work through “airborne fulfillment centers.” That would be a warehouse in a zeppelin.
The AFCs (airborne fulfillment centers), would be furnished with a certain amount of inventory and positioned near a location where Amazon anticipates demand for certain items will soon increase. Drones could be housed at the AFCs and sent down to make a scheduled delivery.
An example cited in the filing was around a sporting event. If there is a popular game happening down below, Amazon’s AFCs above could be loaded up with snacks ordered by the sports fanatics. The AFCs could be flown near a stadium to drop off audio or outdoor display advertising close to the event.
The patent reflects a complex network of systems to aid the delivery by air. Besides the airborne fulfillment the company anticipates larger shuttles that could carry people and supplies to the AFCs or back to the ground. Using a bigger shuttle to bring the drones up to the AFC would allow Amazon to reserve power for making deliveries.
Naturally, these elements would be connected to an inventory management system run by people in the air or on the ground. This filing reveals that the drones and shuttles could function together in a network. They would relay data back and forth about routing, wind speed, and weather. We reached out to Amazon to learn more about their progress on this concept, and whether or not they have a date for when they might launch their first AFC.
Will this replace the local delivery services? Only time will tell.