NEW YORK — The future of Amazon drone deliveries could start at massive “beehives.”
Amazon has filed for a patent for beehive-like towers that would serve as multi-level fulfillment centers for its delivery drones to take off and land. The facilities would be built vertically to blend in with high rises in urban areas. Amazon envisions each city would have one.
The patent application, filed in December 2015 and published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, features several drawings of these buildings, such as the beehive, a cylinder-shaped center and one that looks like a UFO.
The towers could support traditional truck deliveries and include a self-service area where customers can pick up items, the patent states. It also details how employees would attach the packages on drones.
Traditional fulfillment centers are often located outside of cities due to their large size. But the facilities aren’t always convenient for quick deliveries into cities, where a growing number of people live. Amazon’s drone delivery facilities aim to change that.
Although it’s unclear if Amazon will make the drone centers a reality — patents often don’t see the light of day — it’s the latest look into the ecommerce giant’s ambitions for drone delivery.
Amazon also filed for a patent in April 2016 for blimps stocked with drones to make extra speedy deliveries.
In 2013, Amazon unveiled plans for a new delivery service called Prime Air, which would use drones to deliver packages.
Amazon made its first drone delivery in the U.K. in December 2016. The company plans to expand the service to dozens of customers near its British facility in the near future.