Amazon Secures Patent for Pony Express-like Drone Delivery Service

Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service
Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service

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. Its design sounds a lot like the 19th century Pony Express — except, of course, its airborne.

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 tiny depots perched on light poles, 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.

These docking stations will be able to accommodate multiple drones and be located high up and out of the way on cell towers, light and power poles, church steeples, office buildings, parking decks and other vertical structures. They could also come with solar panels so they generate their own power.

There, a drone might tether itself down to flash charge and get the latest weather report and network update before continuing on.

The package could also be handed off to a fully-charged drone that would would fly it a little closer to its final destination, performing the same hand-off in leaps of several miles, just as Pony Express riders at stations along the east-west route handed off mail and packages to a fresh rider and horse so there was no down time along the way.

How far each drone could go on any one leg of the journey would depend on the weight of the package being delivered and any headwinds or other weather that might slow it down.

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SOURCE: Elizabeth Weise
USA TODAY