It is always a bit fun to find new patent applications from Amazon. Many one can easily imagine, others, well they just seem a bit out there.
But we can never discount what the engineers are dreaming up at Amazon, so here is the latest find from Amazon, registered yesterday with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
MULTI-LEVEL FULFILLMENT CENTER FOR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES
That is the official title for this patent, but even Amazon describes it as “… resembles a profile of a beehive”.
Amazon created a few different styles of fulfillment warehouse drawings. If you go to the link above, you can see the entire patent application.
URBAN AREA SOLUTION FOR VERTICAL WAREHOUSING AND DELIVERY
All the funny looking aspects aside, there is a lot of validity to this patent application. While in many U.S. urban areas it is easier to build one story warehouses in the suburbs, how to do you handle drone delivery in downtown or densely populated areas and still provide quick service?
By going vertical (multi-story), the company is envisioning a solution to the real estate space problem. The unique aspect of their patent application is to use the facade of the building as takeoff and landing areas for UAVs (drones).
Amazon even included drawings and descriptions on how they would handle the internal operations of this style fulfillment center.
The patent application is very detailed and goes into specifics of the landing areas and movement of the drones within the structure. There is lots of automation but also a few humans are shown in the drawings.
Amazon even considers self-service pick up locations and lockers and various methods of supplying the fulfillment center with goods.
NOISE ABATEMENT IS A CONCERN AND AMAZON HAS ANOTHER PATENT TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM
Of course, hundreds of drones swirling around the neighborhood may have local residents up in arms. One can only imagine the noise of drones is similar to bees around a beehive.
So Amazon came up with another patent to address this problem.
The company filed a patent to outfit a UAV with adjustable propeller blade treatments. These blade treatments adjust to two or more positions to change the airflow over the propeller.
While the company included lots of drawings in this patent, it kept the type of propeller treatment pretty open.
According to the patent, the treatment may be a flexible, porous or rigid and may be from a variety of materials such as ceramic, composite, fibrous, leather, fur, synthetic, or feathers.
All of this is controlled by automation that adjusts the rotation speed and propeller treatment angles as needed for quietest operation.
LOCAL ZONING WILL BE THE REAL PROBLEM TO IMPLEMENTATION
This patent is a great exercise in logistics innovation. But zoning issues may hinder the development of a real world beehive looking fulfillment center.
Amazon acknowledges multiple times in their patent that their idea is subject to zoning compliance. It is almost sure most jurisdiction would require a zoning waiver, and that means public hearings.
Still, it is interesting to get some insight on what Amazon is thinking, and often small details of in a patent application may make it into a real world application.