There are numerous obstacles retailers need to overcome before employing drones to deliver packages - and the UAV's lifespan is at the top of the list. However, Amazon seems to be headed in the right direction with an application that illustrates using'docking stations' for its autonomous carriers. The newly awarded patent that describes using tall structures such as lamp posts or churches that would allow the drones to recharge and continue on their route. Amazon's newly awarded patent that describes using tall structures such as lamp posts or churches that would allow the drones to recharge and continue on their route. The patent describes the use of the docking stations to make the drones fly longer routes, more accurately and provide the system with shelter during rough weather conditions.
A complex network of automated logistics would support this flying warehouse and drone delivery system. Sensors within would keep track of inventory in real-time, allowing shoppers on the ground to browse and make purchases. Drones, once loaded with packages, would glide to their destinations below, using power only for slight steering adjustments. After delivery, they'd flitter off to a ground station to recharge or be loaded onto shuttles bound for their home in the sky. The airship would float at high altitude--up to 45,000 feet above ground, according to the patent--but with the lighter-than-air interior of the airship doing most of the lifting, there is no mention of the power it would need to operate or stay afloat.
Claridge, founder of xCraft, is best known for being the first contestant on Shark Tank to receive money from all the Sharks – even Kevin O'Leary! Walking the floor of Xponential 2017, the annual convention of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Integration (AUVSI), Claridge remarked to me how the drone industry has grown up since his TV appearance. Claridge has gone from pitching cellphone cases that turn into drones (aka phonedrone) to solving mission critical problems. The age of fully autonomous flight is near and the drone industry is finally recovering from the hangover of overhyped Kickstarter videos (see Lily drone's $34 million fraud). During the three days of Xponential 2017, several far-reaching announcements were made between stalwarts of the tech industry and aviation startups.
An illustration from a patent filed by Amazon on July 21, 2016 for a multi-use drone docking station. SAN FRANCISCO -- A newly-granted patent gives a peek into Amazon's vision of how drones with its Prime Air service could deliver packages across large areas, and it looks a lot like the old Pony Express. The patent, filed July 12, is for a "Multi-use unmanned aerial vehicle docking station system." It paints a picture of flocks of unmanned aerial vehicles whizzing out of depots carrying packages bound for a broad geographical region. By the sound of it, instead of flying all the way to the customer's home the drones would instead wing their way towards the final destination but then stop at the nearest docking station along that path as they get low on charge.
Amazon's Prime Air delivery drones already have a glaring problem: how do you keep them charged and sheltered when dedicated facilities are likely to be few and far between? The company has an idea. It recently received a patent for a "UAV docking station" concept that would offer a temporary perch for drones in need. If a drone runs low on battery or needs to take shelter from an impending storm, it would only have to travel to a station on top of a street light, cell tower, church steeple or another high-up location. The drone could even drop off a package for another drone, turning a delivery into an aerial relay race.