Online retailer Amazon has been catching a fair amount of derision over its recently disclosed patent for an airborne fulfillment center that uses drones for delivery.
Amazon’s patent application, which was filed on April 5, 2016, describes how a blimp-like lighter-than-air aircraft would hover near potential markets carrying merchandise that would then be delivered by unmanned drones. Those drones would pick up merchandise that had been ordered by a customer below and then descend and deliver the purchase.
A number of observers have said idea of an Amazon warehouse blimp sounds like something out of a science fiction novels, most of them dystopian. But the fact is that there’s no technical or engineering reason why such a blimp couldn’t work. There are of course other obstacles, most of them regulatory.
As Amazon envisions its airborne fulfillment center, it would fly in the lower stratosphere—around 45000 feet—where the delivery drones would be serviced and loaded. Other shuttle craft would deliver crew and merchandise, perform refueling tasks, and offload trash. The airborne warehouse would land only occasionally if at all.