According to a new patent filed by the online shopping giant, Amazon, Prime Air delivery drones will be modular and assembled right before they’re deployed for delivery, allowing for drones to be customized to fit specific routes and combat inclement weather.
The patent, filed back in 2014, outlines a system for modular drone delivery. The process starts with a customer ordering an item. Amazon receives the order, the items are packaged up in a box (or a shipping container as the patent calls it), and the box is provided to the drone. At the same time, a ground controller will assess any weather the drone is bound to fly into en route. Based on the delivery (varying weather, payload, and time), parts are picked out to assemble the perfect drone. Assembly instructions to build the drone are provided, and a robotic system builds the drone. The drone is then loaded with the box and dispatched for delivery to the customer’s address.
Having modular parts to build specific drones based on weather, route, delivery times, and package weight is something that Amazon hinted at in their latest Prime Air video. Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, the video tells a tale of a family of Amazon drones built for different environments. Clarkson states, “In time, there will be a whole family of Amazon drones, different designs for different environments.”
Drone designs aren’t specifically outlined in the patent, but that makes sense, there’s a whole bundle of parts to build the perfect drone. Currently, the drone recipe calls for swappable modular platforms, thrusters or thruster arrangements, sensors, control systems, airfoils, batteries, and loading bays. With this extensive range of parts, drones aimed to deliver different payloads in different conditions could be cooked up.
This is just speculation, but according to the patent, customers could choose a “class of delivery service” based on the speed of delivery. Maybe Amazon will employ Prime Air options similar to one-day delivery? In this case, customers could select delivery by fast, fixed-wing drones rather than sluggish quadcopters.
Amazon has kept Prime Air under a seal, but their patented technology is revealing what the company has planned for drone delivery services. This modular system could mean that Amazon is working towards adapting their drones to fit any customer’s needs, making drone delivery services available to everyone.