patent application drawings

Photo via USPTO/Amazon

Amazon just filed a patent for a multi-level drone beehive

The towers would be used to deliver orders in densely populated areas.


Phillip Tracy


Published Jun 23, 2017   Updated May 23, 2021, 2:04 am CDT

Amazon filed a patent application Thursday to make a multi-story beehive-like fulfillment center that would allow drones to deliver packages in densely populated areas.

The application describes a cylindrical tower with dozens of cutouts for autonomous drones to fly in and out of. On the inside is an army of robots tasked to charge the UAVs, replace their batteries, and move them throughout the structure. At the bottom of the fulfillment center is a hub for trucks to drop off merchandise.

drone fulfillment center

“The fulfillment center may have one or more landing locations and one or more deployment locations to accommodate UAVs, which may delivery at least some of the items from the fulfillment center to locations associated with customers,” Amazon wrote in its filing.

Amazon described several different methods for getting its drones from one level to the next, including using a pulley, internal elevators, and a coupling system. One variant describes an inner chamber of corridors with a lift assist system that blows air upward to soften a drone’s landing.

To prevent rogue UAVs from entering the hive, Amazon’s drones land on an outside platform and are wirelessly granted access before returning.

fulfillment center

While this may look like something from a science fiction film, Amazon is not messing around when it comes to using drones to deliver goods. Other patent applications filed by Amazon show how it plans to prevent its drones from being shot out of the sky and how it could use drone-filled zeppelins to deliver packages.

As Business Insider points out, Amazon’s fully-autonomous drones can fly up to 400 feet in the air and carry up to five-pound packages. Amazon also expects its drone to fly a blistering 50 miles per hour.

“We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of operating environments,” Amazon wrote on its Prime Air page. “The look and characteristics of the vehicles will continue to evolve over time.”

Of course, just because Amazon recently filed the patent application doesn’t mean we’ll be staring up at a giant tower with swarms of drones flying out of it anytime soon. Just don’t rule it out either.

H/T Business Insider

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*First Published: Jun 23, 2017, 9:48 am CDT