Amazon has always been at the forefront of technology, but never has this been more apparent than this week with the revelation that Amazon has applied for a patent for “multi-level fulfilment centers” that would accommodate the landing and takeoff of drones in dense urban settings.
The revolutionary designs would see cities across the United States of America have vertical drone centres that are shaped like giant beehives in the centre of downtown city districts which would allow the online retailer to achieve speedy and efficient deliveries by unmanned aircraft. The designs, which were produced in 2015 and published this week are the latest in a long line of plans by Amazon to revolutionise the way we receive our packages from the company.
These tall cylinder like buildings would allow the company to move away from the traditional logistics model of having large single storey warehouses that temporarily store packages before they are shipped out to customers. These buildings, because of the amount of land required are usually located on the outskirts of urban areas and are not convenient for making deliveries into cities where the numbers of people living continues to rise. In Amazon’s own words on the application:
“By locating the fulfilment centers within the cities, items may be more quickly delivered to the growing population of people that live in the cities, as well as the large population of people who work in the cities.”
These centres based in downtown areas could be used to fulfill thousands upon thousands of orders a day, with the drone centre having a central command to control flight operations in the same way that an airport has air traffic controllers. As well as being a hub for drone deliveries, the buildings would also be designed to cater for traditional vehicle deliveries and could also possibly have a self-service option for people who want to pick up their own deliveries.
Whether we will see these drone hubs ever appear in the US, Europe or elsewhere would depend upon the company overcoming a range of possible obstacles such as the regulation of commercial drones and where and when they can fly as well as a wealth of planning and environmental laws and considerations. On the plus side, Amazon has successfully tested its Prime Air Drone service in the Cambridge area of the UK which has seen unmanned aircraft deliver a range of small items to consumers in the area.
Some people have questioned the validity of some of the patents that Amazon file claiming that they are as much about getting free publicity from websites, TV and publications around the world as being actually about innovation. This time last year, the company were making headlines with their patent for flying warehouses in the sky as well as their idea for parachute delivery of packages.