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Amazon’s latest plans for urban delivery drones unveiled

28 June 2017 - 19:43 by Graham Miller

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A patent filed by Amazon has revealed its ambitions to create delivery drone hubs in cities which will have a similar setup to a beehive, according to the Guardian.

The so-called multilevel fulfilment centres are intended to allow drones to operate in urban centres, delivering items ordered via safe shopping online to customers in the surrounding area without having to clog up the roads with vans.

Currently the warehouses operated by Amazon and most other retailers are vast, open spaces made up of a single storey. But drones require a different setup, hence the multilevel approach which seems suitably futuristic in comparison.

Even more interesting is the fact that this patent was filed two years ago, but only entered the public arena this week. This shows just how far ahead Amazon is planning with relation to its drone technologies.

Another advantage of building fulfilment centres upwards rather than outwards is that they will be able to fit into city centres more efficiently, rather than being sprawling facilities which require a large plot of land.

Of course there are a lot of hurdles that Amazon will have to leap in order to make inner city drone delivery a reality, not least of which is actually working out how the airborne service will work in a safe, cost-effective way.

Regulators need to be courted and customers need to be convinced that they should order items  online for immediate delivery by drone. This could allow consumers to receive items while they are at work during the day, rather than having to wait until they return home.

Although eventually the drones will operate autonomously, they will still need to be overseen by human supervisors, fulfilling similar roles to air traffic controllers. This is also covered by the patent, painting a picture of a brave new world of retail.