Looking at patents filed by large technology companies is often a fun way of having a sneak peek of the latest tech ideas in the pipeline. Whilst the companies might not use the patents even if they grant, it can give an insight on the direction that the company wants to take. This week the latest patent to excite tech fans as its made the rounds on the news has been from Amazon.
Reality or science fiction?
Whilst it may sound somewhat like science fiction, the granted US patent from Amazon claims a computer implemented method which dispatches products housed on an “aerial fulfilment centre” (a giant blimp floating near a metropolitan area) via drones which deliver the products to the delivery location. The description of the patent states that the blimp would remain airborne for significant periods of time and would be resupplied by shuttles. In an attempt to maximise the battery life of the drones, the dispatched drones would effectively glide to the earth using only limited power for guidance to the target. Having delivered their products, the drones would likely not have the power to return to the aerial fulfilment centre, which would float at 45,000 feet (commercial airliners typically cruise at 39,000 feet), instead they would return to a ground based collection point and then could be sent back to the blimp via shuttle.
The description of the patent details one of the main advantages of the invention is the ability to deliver products “within minutes” and states that this would therefore enable for perishable items or even prepared meals to be delivered. This is perhaps evidence of Amazon’s increased diversification, particularly into the food and drink market, also shown through the recent launch of Amazon’s food label Wickedly Prime. It also suggests that an advantage would be to deliver products that have been ordered pre-release, such as books, DVDs or games, to a geographical area near instantly upon release.
Amazon US patent filing
The US patent was filed in December 2014 and granted in April of 2016 with relatively little opposition during Examination. Amazon have not filed for a patent for this invention in any territory besides the US, which perhaps reveals that they may not be confident in making this concept a reality. It may also be due to the lack of technical matter contained within the patent which can be more of a requirement in other territories and is especially required in European patent applications. Regardless, the patent is an interesting idea and demonstrates the lengths that Amazon might consider to keep on top of the e-commerce market.