One drone simply isn't enough for quick-ship product delivery under Amazon's vision of the future.
There’s been all sorts of buzz lately related to automation and specifically how robots and other high-tech wizardry will disrupt traditional retail channels.
A new Amazon patent for something called an “air fulfillment center” reveals just how far things may change in the not-so-distant future. As reported in an article on Futurism.com, Amazon's air fulfillment center is described in the patent as a drone-powered distribution center that functions like a flying warehouse. Envisioned as part of Amazon’s already publicized plan to use drones for product distribution, an air fulfillment center would park over areas where demand is expected to be high for particular types of merchandise—a sporting event or concert, for example. Upon receipt of an electronic order, the fulfillment center would release smaller drones, which would be deployed to actually deliver the goods to the individual buyers.
The patent describes technology and processes that are, not surprisingly, pretty complex. The patent specifically cites additional auxiliary aerial shuttles that will occasionally restock the air fulfillment centers and shuttle drones back to the distribution mothership so they can save their power for deliveries. There is also mention of a communications channel whereby drones and shuttles would “talk to each other,” relaying critical information such as atmospheric conditions and optimal routes.
Given that I suffer from immediate gratification syndrome, I have to admit, I like where these new delivery concepts are going.