Drones

Delivery drone patent packs a parachute into a shipping label

Amazon has been awarded a patent for a parachute that folds up inside a shipping label, to allow delivery drones to drop items from above
Amazon has been awarded a patent for a parachute that folds up inside a shipping label, to allow delivery drones to drop items from above
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The shipping label parachutes could come in a range of sizes, depending on the size and fragility of the package
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The shipping label parachutes could come in a range of sizes, depending on the size and fragility of the package
A string on top would pull open the parachute as the drone drops the package
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A string on top would pull open the parachute as the drone drops the package
In the case of large or awkward packages, two or more shipping label packages could be attached
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In the case of large or awkward packages, two or more shipping label packages could be attached
Amazon has been awarded a patent for a parachute that folds up inside a shipping label, to allow delivery drones to drop items from above
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Amazon has been awarded a patent for a parachute that folds up inside a shipping label, to allow delivery drones to drop items from above

Commercial delivery drones are already taking flight, but before the system really gets off the ground, there are plenty of big-picture details to sort out. Recent patents are starting to fill in some of those blanks, with companies working on systems to transfer cargo from drone-to-drone in midair, airships that drop drones closer to their targets, and lamp posts that double as recharge stations. Now, Amazon has outlined plans to pack parachutes into shipping labels, so packages can be safely dropped as the drone buzzes by.

According to the patent, the label should be about the same size as a regular one, and fairly inexpensive. The difference is that folded up inside this one is a parachute, connected to the package with cords made of nylon, cotton or, in the case of heavy objects, Kevlar. When the drone arrives at its destination, it simply drops the package, with a piece of string pulling the parachute open as it falls.

The plan should save the drone the risk of trying to land on a doorstep or in a yard, instead hovering at a safe distance overhead. Clear symbols printed on the top of the parachute, like QR codes or barcodes, could allow the drone to monitor the package's descent, to make sure it lands safely.

A string on top would pull open the parachute as the drone drops the package
A string on top would pull open the parachute as the drone drops the package

Of course, this kind of system isn't a case of one size fits all. The parachutes could come in a range of sizes, to suit how big, fragile or awkward the items being dropped off are. Things like towels or baseballs might not need a parachute at all, Amazon says, while wine glasses may need a much gentler fall cushioned by extra padding in the box. Awkward packages like poster tubes, meanwhile, might need two separate 'chutes.

If the drone can't get to the drop site, square or rectangular parachutes might help it release the package at a distance and send it gliding diagonally downwards. To keep the box from spinning or the cords from tangling up, Amazon has outlined a few different designs, like arranging the cords in a radial pattern, or attaching a harness to them.

As with any patent, there's no guarantee your future online orders will be air-dropped by parachute, but it could form an interesting piece of the drone delivery puzzle.

Source: United States Patent Office

6 comments
Wolf0579
I'll just say two words familiar to any skydiver/parachutist. Wind drift.
Bob Flint
Add to the list power lines, trees, birds, & angry neighbors...
chase
If dropping packages out of an aircraft manned or unmanned via parachute were a sound idea, it would've happened prior to uav popularity. FedEx would simply drop em doing a low attitude flyby. Unless you are waaaaay out beyond ground transportation means. It's just not a sound idea. Customers want their package delivered, not tossed on the front lawn or in a puddle of snowbank like yesterday's newspaper.
robertswww
I think some of the commenters are missing the point. FedEx planes cannot do a low flyby of residential areas, nor can they hover like a drone. This is ideal for people waiting at home to get their package via same day delivery. It is also safer than drone landings, as the rotor blades remain a safe distance from the target location. The drone can hover over the resident’s property and calculate wind conditions to determine the optimal drop point. Much like smaller model rockets that I have launched and gotten to parachute back within proximity of the launch area. They don’t go that high so it’s fairly easy to estimate where they will land. The drone or Amazon can notify the customer that the drone is en-route and to be ready to accept delivery. Video and GPS from the drone can confirm exactly where the package was delivered. Drone delivery is coming and this is just another step to make it viable.
fen
How do they deliver to something like Apartment 514 on floor 5 of 8?
pmshah
These would be dropped from what height for the parachute to be properly deployed? So who pays for the additional cost of the parachute or are they expecting the buyers to drop them off into drop boxes spread across the cities.