Amazon.com has filed for a patent with the USPTO to use airships to store products and serve as a base for delivery-drones.
The patent application was filed in December 22, 2014, but
was spotted only on Wednesday by Zoe Leavitt, an analyst at technology data and research firm CB Insights.
According to the patent filing, drones launched from the so-called "airborne fulfillment centers" (AFCs) would use far less power than those launched from the ground. Amazon will use
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to deliver items from the AFC to users, according to the patent.
For example, the AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations. As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent. Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.
Amazon plans to start using drones for deliveries next year.