Life has become pretty futuristic at this point. We have autonomous cars in development, we all have the power of the internet at our fingertips thanks to our smartphones, and we’re actually going to Mars relatively soon. Now, Amazon has patented something that’s really cool: a flying blimp doubling as a warehouse.
The blimp, which Amazon calls an ‘Airborne Fulfillment Center‘, is supposed to function as a flying warehouse filled to the brim with products and drones to deliver those products. Here’s the text from the patent filed on April 5, 2016.
Described is an airborne fulfillment center (“AFC”) and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAV”) to deliver items from the AFC to users. For example, the AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations.
We already knew that Amazon is wanting to use drones for their deliveries, but this plan seems ripped straight from an 80s sci-fi novel. The patent also mentions smaller airships being used to restock the blimp:
As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent. Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.
If you need a little extra to help you wrap your head around the idea, here’s a drawing from the patent’s documentation (full documentation can be found here):
There’s a big chance this plan won’t end up being developed and used, but the fact that Amazon thought enough of this idea to register the patent is making me hope that it will see the light of day at some point in the not too distant future.
What do you think of Amazon’s AFC? Let us know in the comment section!