Drone & drop: Amazon wants to parachute your parcels

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Amazon’s ideas for carrying out drone deliveries just keep getting more ludicrous.

The company has filed a patent for a system that would allow drones to drop packages from the sky, and guide them to a safe landing spot using tiny parachutes.
In the patent filing, published on Tuesday, Amazon wrote that such a system could “forcefully propel a package” from a unmanned aerial vehicle (or drone) while in motion.

The patent describes how the drone could alter the force applied to the package, depending on where it wanted the package to land.
Once airbourne, the vertical descent path of the package would be controlled using one or more “control surfaces” – which could consist of wings, parachutes, or compressed air canisters.

“Instructions can be transmitted from the UAV via an RF module that cause the one or more controls surfaces to alter the vertical descent path of the package to avoid obstructions or to regain a stable orientation,” the patent states.

Amazon explained that the advantage of this system is that it would be more efficient than landing the drones for each delivery.

“The sequence of landing and taking off for each package delivery creates time and energy resource inefficiencies, which negate at least a portion of the benefit of adopting a network system of UAVs,” it stated.

Amazon began testing its drone delivery service in the UK earlier this year, completing its first delivery in Cambridge on December 14.

The retailer intends to use unmanned aerial vehicles to pick up small packages from Amazon fulfillment centres and deposit them outside customers’ front doors in under 30 minutes.

However, one of the biggest barriers to making drone deliveries work at scale is the fact that they cannot travel very far before their batteries run out.

Amazon has explored various ways to extend the range of its drones, including using aerial structures such as street lights and church steeples as “docking stations”.
It has even filed a patent for an “airborne fulfillment center” – which would hover at an altitude of around 45,000 feet and deploy drones on demand.

None of these patents provide concrete proof of Amazon’s plans; companies often file patents that never end up becoming real-world products or services.

However, they offer a fascinating insight into how Amazon could overcome some of the obstacles facing drone deliveries in the future.

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