Retail giant Amazon has set out its vision for future deliveries in a new patent application, describing how airborne blimps could one day release armies of drones to transport packages to customers.
Described as an “airborne fulfillment center” in the December 22 filing to the US Patent & Trademark Office, the contraption resembles a Zeppelin and could fly at 45,000 feet above metropolitan areas.
Stocked with a number of drones, the airship would allow the unmanned delivery robots to “descend from the high altitude… using little to no power other than to guide the UAV towards its destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends,” Amazon explain.
Tech analyst Zoe Leavitt stumbled upon the bizarre blueprint, which she likened to a “Death Star of ecommerce.”
According to the patent, smaller “shuttle” blimps could be deployed to replenish the mothership with stock and fuel, and even “transport workers” onto their shift.
It’s not clear from the patent just how the airship would be powered, with the filing simply saying the crafts become airborne “from gas that is less dense than the surrounding air, such as helium or hot air.”
Amazon carried out its first official delivery by drone earlier this month in England. The “Prime Air” service successfully transported cargo from one of the company’s ground bases in Cambridge to a nearby customer.
“Moments after receiving the order an electrically powered Amazon drone makes it way down an automated track and then rises into the sky. Within 30 minutes of placing the order, the customer receives their package,” says an Amazon promotional video for the service.
If the flying Amazon base were to one day be realized, it would mean the company might no longer have to rely on fixed locations for its delivery centers.
“The use of an AFC (air fulfillment center) and shuttles also provides another benefit in that the AFC can remain airborne for extended periods of time,” the patent document adds.