Amazon engineers are spending a lot of time thinking about how to make the company’s lofty drone delivery ambitions a reality. Witness the wide range of whimsical patents that imagine infrastructure ranging from a drone docking beehive to a shipping label that does double duty as a parachute.
Here’s the latest: a network of mobile charging and repair stations for unmanned aerial vehicles that travel around on cars, boats, and trucks.
The patent envisions drone stations on “locomotives, container ships, road tractors or other vehicles, and equipped with systems for loading one or more items onto the aerial vehicle, and for launching or retrieving the aerial vehicle while the intermodal vehicles are in motion.”
The patent’s images depict a mobile maintenance facility with a door on top that allows the drone to land and take off vertically. Inside the station, the drone can be charged, repaired, and loaded up with products while the vehicle carrying it is in motion.
The vehicles and boats housing the stations would travel to regions “where the demand is known or anticipated” based on “histories of purchases or deliveries to such areas, or events that are scheduled to occur in such areas.”
There’s no guarantee that this roving drone support system will actually ever see the light of day. Amazon files thousands of patents, many of which never come to fruition. But it does show that when it comes to drone deliveries, Amazon is willing to explore any option, no matter how far-fetched. The company typically doesn’t comment on its patents unless they actually become reality.
Amazon still has a number of technical and regulatory hurdles to clear before it starts delivering via drone in earnest. The company has done a few publicity-focused trial deliveries, and made initial deliveries in the UK, but large-scale commercial drone delivery in the U.S. remains a ways out.