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Amazon has patent to build floating warehouse

AMAZON.COM, Inc., the e-commerce giant, has been awarded a patent to build a floating warehouse that would serve as a launchpad, or mother ship, for drones carrying packages to customers.

The patent for "airborne fulfillment center," or AFC, was filed in 2014, awarded in April, and "unearthed" this week by CB Insights, a company based in New York that analyzes data on companies in emerging industries to provide predictive intelligence on company health and strategy, investor performance and technology adoption trends.

Amazon, headquartered in Seattle, Washington state in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, has called its ground-based warehouses, which also works as regional distribution hubs, across the world "fulfillment centers."

While making the warehouse airborne, the AFC is essentially a logistics technology for building an airship capable of flying at altitudes of 45,000 feet, or 13,000 meters, or more while stockpiling items Amazon sells through its online marketplace. An unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), popularly known as drone, would depart from the AFC when a customer place an order, and fly down to deliver the package.

As it glides down rather than having to take off and land, the drone supposedly would require little power, as the patent filing explains: "it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends." The used drone then would fly to a ground installation.

The AFC would remain in the air and be refueled and replenished using a shuttle, possibly a smaller aircraft capable of docking onto the airship and unloading products as well as fuel. The shuttle would also bring used drones back onto the AFC, as the delivery vehicles currently being tested by Amazon are unable to reach the height where the AFC stays.

The idea seems to be an extension for Amazon's drone delivery initiative known as Prime Air. The company has been working on the technology for years, trying to reaching customer homes without relying on logistics companies.

With completion of its first drone delivery test in the United Kingdom earlier this month, Amazon plans to expand its drone testing in 2017.


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