Amazon looks to floating warehouses in the sky for drone deliveries

Amazon is looking to push its supply chain into the heavens as it goes full steam ahead on drone deliveries.

The e-commerce titan recently received a for product-distribution warehouses that float in the sky, and are carried and held aloft by blimps.

It's part of Amazon's grand plan to move from ground-based deliveries into the airspace above our heads, where drones would zip quietly overhead, carrying our paper towels, toasters and printer cartridges to us in record time, and generating substantial cost savings for the $887 billion .

The heavenly warehouses, or "aerial fulfillment centers" as Amazon describes them, would be serviced by a fleet of drones, which the company likes to call "."

"An AFC may be positioned at an altitude above a metropolitan area and be designed to maintain an inventory of items that may be purchased by a user and delivered to the user by a UAV that is deployed from the AFC," the patent document says.

The blimps, or "airships," would contain a lighter-than-air gas such as helium, or heated air, so they would float.

Of course, stationing a floating warehouse over a city and having drones coming and going from it raises safety concerns that previous Amazon patents have already identified. The company has patented a system that would cause a drone to fragment in case of malfunction, to reduce the falling-object hazard. Amazon has also noted that drones could fly into buildings, or be hijacked by "nefarious individuals."

It's not clear that the Seattle firm headed by CEO Jeff Bezos will achieve its goal of delivering many products by . And it is also unclear whether the company will pursue the technologies described in the warehouses-in-the-sky patent.

©2018 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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