Drones

Amazon envisages drone-delivery towers for urban areas

Amazon envisages drone-deliver...
This cylindrical hive is Amazon's vision of a UAV delivery center, where trucks can deliver loads of items for aerial last-mile delivery by swarms of multicopter drones
This cylindrical hive is Amazon's vision of a UAV delivery center, where trucks can deliver loads of items for aerial last-mile delivery by swarms of multicopter drones
View 3 Images
This cylindrical hive is Amazon's vision of a UAV delivery center, where trucks can deliver loads of items for aerial last-mile delivery by swarms of multicopter drones
1/3
This cylindrical hive is Amazon's vision of a UAV delivery center, where trucks can deliver loads of items for aerial last-mile delivery by swarms of multicopter drones
A drone launching system flings the UAV upwards and outwards
2/3
A drone launching system flings the UAV upwards and outwards
This diagram shows a version of the building designed to prioritize the top level takeoff and landing hatches, so as to reduce noise at ground level
3/3
This diagram shows a version of the building designed to prioritize the top level takeoff and landing hatches, so as to reduce noise at ground level

A patent filed by Amazon outlines the company's vision for vertical drone delivery hives that could be destined for urban centers. These tall, multilevel cylinders would receive truck freight at the ground level, with robots then loading up delivery drones that would leave and return through dozens of windows dotted up the sides of the structure.

Amazon's vast order fulfillment centres are already otherworldly. A company that wants to be able to sell you everything needs a ton of space to keep its everythings in, and some real logistical intelligence to keep deliveries fast and accurate – especially as the company expands into groceries and fresh food.

But these massive warehouses that are generally located on the outskirts of cities will likely need to get closer to population centers when the company's long-awaited drone delivery service gets up and running. A patent published yesterday gives us a peek at a potential solution to this problem in what could become a very common sight in urban areas in the coming decades.

The multi-level fulfillment center for unmanned aerial vehicles looks like some kind of cylindrical hive, with large truck bays all around the ground level to accept freight from major depots, and dozens upon dozens of little windows up the sides of the cylinder that act as entry and exit bays for drones, which will handle the last mile or two of the delivery process.

Each window will be secure in its own right, and will only open to accept authenticated drones. It's unclear how Amazon plans to prevent unauthorized UAVs from being flown in the window, but then it's also unclear exactly what you'd gain by flying one in there and having the window shut behind it. These launch/landing bays will also have the ability to throw the drones outward on a set initial trajectory rather than have them take off vertically by themselves.

A drone launching system flings the UAV upwards and outwards
A drone launching system flings the UAV upwards and outwards

Inside the hive there are robots tasked with loading and charging the UAVs before and after jobs, as well as moving them around or replacing batteries as needed. There are also vertical corridors that allow the drones to move between levels, including some kind of lift assist system that blows air upward to take some load off the props.

The entire upper seaction of the building would be arranged in a hub/spoke configuration, with the whole building designed to present the maximum possible number of approach and departure slots.

This diagram shows a version of the building designed to prioritize the top level takeoff and landing hatches, so as to reduce noise at ground level
This diagram shows a version of the building designed to prioritize the top level takeoff and landing hatches, so as to reduce noise at ground level

Some kind of flight control system would manage the swarms of UAVs as they enter and leave the building, and one clause in the patent application speaks of potentially prioritizing the bays toward the top of the building to keep the buzzing noise of drone props to a minimum around ground level where it might annoy locals.

But if – or in all likelihood, when – this vision comes to fruition, the buzzing of thousands of small props above may end up becoming as familiar to us as the roar of traffic is today.

Source: USPTO via Silicon Beat

3 comments
CharlieSeattle
Great way to disperse bio weapons, VX nerve gas, Sarin, Plague infected fleas etc.
Bob Flint
Where is the quantified study that says this method of delivering over a few miles range warrants this concept in all climate conditions? What is the expected delivery fee? For the current mall model, people under there own premise arrive shop, and pretty much are able to take almost anything with them.
Stephen N Russell
Problem: Air Traffic for drones, otherwise super idea but need larger drones for bigger packages.,