Amazon has bold and bright ideas for delivery rest stops for drones

Amazon has bold and bright ideas for delivery rest stops for drones
Credit: United States Patent

(Tech Xplore)—Turn vertical city structures such as church spires and street lights into drone recharging points? and a number of other sites are reporting that this is an idea from Amazon. The concept is all there in a patent discussion on how drones could be kept recharged while on the move.

The patent filing was eyed by PatentYogi, said reports.

The patent discussion states the drones-for-delivery challenge loud and clear.

According to the patent, the "use of UAVs for deliveries can reduce costs and increase speed and accuracy. The range provided by current UAV technology, however, makes deliveries over a wide area—e.g., throughout a city, or even a portion of a city—difficult."

The patent is titled "Multi-use UAV docking station systems and methods." It was filed in December 2014.

"With newer applications developed each day, drones are set to go a long a way and in some cases, quite literally," said PatentYogi.

Ben Woods in on Wednesday said the station would not only serve up a recharging function but also be places to shelter drones in bad weather.

Interestingly, these recharging points would play several roles.

Woods explained that the concept involved a charging point reporting its position and any other relevant information. "For example," wrote Woods, "the next time a storm rolls in, the drone would automatically know to avoid the area and re-route."

Amazon has bold and bright ideas for delivery rest stops for drones
Credit: United States Patent

And that is not all. the drone, while docked, could pass a package to another drone for delivery and pass on relevant data as well.

Here is how the patent discussion described the stations' roles: The unmanned aerial vehicles docking stations "may incorporate a number of features to enable UAVs to fly longer routes, to fly routes more accurately, and to provide shelter during adverse conditions. In some examples, the docking stations may also provide additional services to the communities in which they are installed. In some examples, the docking stations can also include various package handling abilities to facilitate package delivery. In some examples, the docking stations may be networked to provide central command and control for the UAVs."

Alfred Ng in New York Daily News said the docking stations on high spots around cities would function "like a post office in the sky."

The PatentYogi team, said Deepak Gupta in TNW, had selected the Amazon patent as one of five if the week's most interesting.

"The docking stations are deployed on light poles, cell phone towers, church steeples and pretty much any structure where you might expect to find a conventional birdhouse," wrote Gupta.

Gupta also commented, "Once this is rolled out, you may see drones perched on electric poles besides birds, just resting."

However, notice the word "may" in the above. Eugene Kim in Business Insider UK said, "Since these are patent filings, there's no guarantee that they'll turn into actual products. But it gives a glimpse into the future Amazon sees with its drone delivery program."

Explore further

Amazon drone patent has tracking, talking details

More information: United States Patent: Multi-use UAV docking station systems and methods

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Jul 21, 2016
At first glance this seems like a good idea, but the time window for this may be small if battery technology improves to the point where rest stops are no longer an issue.

A collaboration partner of mine did a neat thesis on autonomous blimps for factory monitoring with a similar setup of charging/rest stations mounted high up on the walls of various factory floors (back in 2002 or thereabouts). In the end the system was almost 'fire and forget', where you would loose the blimp and it would monitor 24/7 and go for a recharge as needed for weeks on end without any kind of human intervention, maneouvering from room to room with a 'Roomba'-type light-tower guidance system.

Aug 14, 2016
If I know how my mom, in the later years of her life, reacted to being startled (her hearing was slowly getting worse)... this idea has the problem of "Freakout Factor". And not just normal, "Ugh, what, oh sh*t" type of freakout, but more the visceral instinctual, "Praying mantis in my hair" type of freakout.

You're walking to the local convenience store during the night.
Suddenly you hear the beating of thousands of tiny wings (the spinup noise of a quadrocoptor rotor array), then from the top of the streetlight a dark thing flies off, shadowing the path overhead. There is no "sane reaction", there is just "praying mantis in my hair" blind terror.

Simple suggestions to fix this bug. Lights. Blink lights softly (organic things don't tend to blink light unless they're fireflies and too bright a light equals driver distraction). Noises. A nice tiny soothing melody (Japanese anime time-tested for irritation limitation) about 3 seconds long with slower lift off.

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