When Amazon debuted its concept video for Prime Air, its rumoured drone delivery service it couldn’t have anticipated how popular the idea would be.
Back in 2013, the video’s release date, drone delivery was a totally unprecedented idea.
In the years that followed, a few other companies have gestured towards bringing drone delivery into the public arena.
Amazon, meanwhile, have hung back, working on perfecting their concept before launching it. But that’s not to say Amazon haven’t been hard at work on the concept.
In fact, you may be surprised to know that Amazon Prime Air has already made its first deliveries.
In December 2016, Amazon’s Cambridge depot became its first Air Fulfillment depot. It delivered its first parcel on 7 December to a local address.
Amazon documented the occasion on their official YouTube channel.
However, currently the issue is the distance the drones can fly.
Powered by battery, there’s a specific distance that the drones will be able to go before running out of power.
Additionally, in the US rules say that drone pilots must keep their devices within eye-sight.
Amazon might be able to influence law-makers to change the latter, but the former could be a tricky situation.
Most companies would be content with simply being able to deliver packages to a few customers within a certain radius.
If you set up a fulfilment centre just on the edge of a city you could potentially still serve thousands of customers.
But a new patent uncovered by Drone Life suggests Amazon aren’t stopping there.
The patent hints that Amazon is planning a so-called drone train which would operate like a mobile fulfilment centre.
The train would ride around the country with intermodal containers (basically, shipping containers) on its back, filled with the most popular items from Amazon’s warehouse.
These could launch drones when the train neared its general location. The patent also suggests the trains would contain storage and maintenance for drones.
But what’s really exciting is that these containers wouldn’t necessarily have to fit on a train.
The containers would be the same size and shape as standard shipping containers allowing Amazon to place them on boats and lorries too.
Of course, it’s important to remember that a patent is by no means a guarantee. Amazon are just bookmarking this idea for now. Still, it’s fun to speculate.
Here are some of Amazon’s wackiest patents
If this Amazon drone patent sounds crazy to you then you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Amazon are infamous for filing some seriously weird and wonderful patents over the years.
A train warehouse is pretty reasonable-sounding compared to this one.
In 2016, Amazon filed a patent for a ‘Airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery’. In short, it’s a warehouse on a blimp ready to launch drones from the sky. Insane.
Another example of Amazon’s commitment to delivery by air.
This system would see a small parachute attached to parcels allowing them to float gently to the ground from a drone or even the floating warehouse!
You know those ideas that seem totally crazy but once you see them they actually make sense?
This is one of those. The idea is to drop watertight containers into a lakes with products in them. When needed for delivery, an individual sonic signal would be played. Each container would be fitted with a canister designed to respond to the unique jingle associated with it.
The canister would then fill a balloon with air and bring the parcel to the surface. The container would be loaded onto a truck ready for delivery. It sounds crazy, but using water to move around heavy boxes could save Amazon a fortune.
Self-driving delivery trucks
Prime Air might be a little sexier than Prime Truck but the idea is the same — unmanned vehicles on roads delivering your stuff with no drivers.
Teeny-tiny personal drones
Amazon loves a drone, doesn’t it?
This patent was for a little drone pal that could live in your pocket or sit on your shoulder. The patent suggests the drone could function like an Amazon Echo that flies around with you.
Amazon hope law-enforcement officers could use the device as a cheap alternative to helicopters. Public uses could see people finding their cars in large car parks. The possibilities are endless!
This one is pretty out there.
Last year Amazon won a patent for building underground tunnels to deliver packages.
They say these tunnels could connect fulfilment centres to airports or transport depots. That said, the patent included the option to bring tunnels directly to customers’ homes.
Mighty-morphin’ team-up drones
Amazon may have been watching Transformers when they came up with this one. The idea is that several drones could combine together to become one big drone in order to deliver heavier packages. It’s a deliciously ‘out-there’ but incredibly cool idea!
Again, we must remind you that these are all just ideas for the time being.
Still, it’s clear that Amazon have a lot of imagination and are definitely prepared to innovate!