Amazon has filed yet another patent covering the delivery of packages via drones, which would be launched from the backs of trucks. Of course, this new patent – filed under patent number US 02018/0037322 A1 and published on February 8 – is not the first of its kind from Amazon and not even the first to include truck-based drone delivery. However, unlike those previous patents, this filing leaves out trains, ships, and blimps as the primary delivery method to focus solely on trucks. Moreover, this patent does not envision what effectively equates to mobile warehouses with charging facilities and repair centers for the drones themselves. This new listing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office places the drones as a kind of last leg delivery system.
Rather than requiring trailers that open and close in order to let the drones in, the drones appear to land on top of trailers for the vast majority of a delivery route. Of course, they would still require some method to secure themselves to the trailer, but that likely wouldn't be anywhere near as technologically complicated as what was shown in previous patents. Those would most likely be operated by a partner company, though it isn't out of the question for Amazon to start up its own fleet for this purpose. In any case, the drones would simply load up with cargo at an Amazon warehouse and then the system would link them to trucks headed to the area the package needs to get to. Once the trucks get within a set distance from the warehouse, the drones would fly out to land on top and secure themselves until the truck gets within a given range of one or more delivery addresses. At that point, the drones would depart from the truck in order to deliver the packages before returning to either the same truck or a new truck to return to the warehouse.
Not only is the new patent far more realistic in the short term than building out new delivery trucks or trailers. It may also help Amazon overcome at least one of the obstacles it has encountered since first announcing a drone delivery initiative. Because there won't be nearly so many complex mechanisms and the drones won't be flying over dozens or hundreds of miles, it should be much easier for the company to gain approval from relevant aviation authorities. What's more, this method of delivery would save the company having to create or implement ways to keep the drones charged for long trips. With that said, this patent should still be taken with a grain of salt since not every patent leads to real-world implementation.