Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is working on taking their drone delivery system a step further. It was revealed in disclosed in filings to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Amazon wants to create airships to serve as mobile, flying warehouses designed to help the company deliver more of its products by drones. In other words, Amazon want their drones to have a mothership, which is described as an “airborne fulfillment center (AFC).”
Amazon explains the reasoning for the plan, claiming that it will save money and energy in the long run. Sending drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), out from a ground-based warehouse facility requires more energy. "When the UAV departs the AFC, it may descend from the high altitude of the AFC using little or no power other than to guide the UAV towards its delivery destination and/or to stabilize the UAV as it descends. When the UAV approaches earth, the UAV may engage the motors of the UAV and utilize the lifting forces generated by the motors and corresponding propellers of the UAV to slow the descent of the UAV and to complete navigation to the user specified delivery location. When the UAV reaches the delivery location, it may disengage the ordered item and complete the delivery. " the patent filing explains.
Of course one of the benefits of having an airborne warehouse is that it is not limited to a fixed location like traditional handling facilities. The AFC can navigate to different areas depending on a variety of factors, such as weather, expected demand, and/or actual demand.