Amazon will have a mothership of sorts for its delivery drones.
The e-commerce company recently received the patent for an "airborne fulfillment center" or AFC.
The AFC is described in the patent as a blimp or some sort of airship that will act as an airport for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or the drones used for delivery. The AFC will also be an airborne warehouse where Amazon will stock lots of products for faster delivery. It's supposed to float at an altitude of 45,000.
According to the patent, "when the UAV departs the AFC, it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends."
Amazon gave a few detailed examples of how the AFC and its delivery drones can be utilized in real life, one of which is during a football game. At the arena, the drones can be used to bring orders of food and football merchandise to spectators. The warehouse blimp will be stocked up with the necessary food items and other stuff before the game starts. The fans can then order from the menu which could be displayed on the blimp.
Domino's Pizza in New Zealand is already delivering food to select customers using a drone so this idea is nothing new. But what makes drone deliveries during football matches potentially problematic is the presence of rowdy fans who might grab the drone from the air or steal the items.
Refueling and Re-stocking
The AFC would stay afloat all the time, according to the patent. Fuelling and re-stocking will be performed by a shuttle or a small aircraft that is capable of docking on the airship. Another option is for the drones to grab a new stock from smaller re-stocking airships before docking on the mothership. That way, the drones serve a double purpose.
CNBC mentioned in its report that the blimp may need approval from aviation authorities. This is easier said than done.