What if you could order something online for delivery to your home, get called into work and then receive your package at work without changing anything, 30 minutes after you ordered it? That's the idea behind Amazon's drone, for which a patent was shared online by the U.S. Patent and Trade office last week. Just the abstract of the text is impressive.
"This disclosure describes an unmanned aerial vehicle ("UAV") configured to autonomously deliver items of inventory to various destinations. The UAV may receive inventory information and a destination location and autonomously retrieve the inventory from a location within a materials handling facility, compute a route from the materials handling facility to a destination and travel to the destination to deliver the inventory."
Yesterday, Wired shared information that clarifies some details about the abstract, and this drone's capabilities are much more impressive than I expected. It seems Amazon is looking far into the future, not simply attempting to take the next step forward. They want to jump as far ahead as possible. So, what's so impressive about these drones?
Firstly, they're not just for delivery. They also find their parcels in the warehouse, as the abstract states. They will even be able to retrieve the parcels from third-party sellers. The complexity of the warehouse retrieval capability is unclear, but Amazon is already involved with Kiva Robots, which are highly intelligent, efficient warehousing machines. Advanced technology is theirs (literally theirs, since Kiva is their subsidiary) to use.
Secondly, you won't have to be at home to receive the package. If you need to go to your office, you can change the delivery location. You will even be able to share your location using GPS, so the drone can find you.
Lastly, these little drones will be able to communicate with each other to ensure safe delivery in the fastest time possible. They'll be sharing information about weather, traffic and obstacles. If your dog is in the yard barking and jumping at the drone, your package won't be delivered. it's too dangerous, the drone would determine. If any other drones are scheduled to go to the same location, the information about the dog will be handy.
All of these ideas are fantastic, forward-thinking innovations but most of us intuitively understand that they're a long way off, still. Amazon just received an exemption from the FAA, which allows them to perform test flights as long as they follow a set of rules. The company's vision reaches far ahead of its current capabilities, but it's making progress and maybe even seeing new opportunities on the horizon.