We know that Amazon envisions a future where drones play a major part in its business, but a recently discovered patent filing looks like something from Bioshock Infinite. It seems the retail giant could start launching warehouses into the air, carried by massive blimps.
The “airborne fulfillment centers (AFC),” as they’re described in the USPTO patent filing, would also carry a fleet of drones and be sent to areas where Amazon expects a high demand for certain goods. It gives examples of sporting events or festivals, where items like food, drink, and souvenirs would likely be ordered in their thousands by attendees.
Drones, many of them temperature-controlled models used for food delivery, could get the orders into customers' hands a lot faster than if they originated from ground-based warehouses. The huge aircraft would also feature billboards that companies can rent for advertising purposes.
Amazon wants to use shuttles to take employees, stock, and drones up to the AFCs and back to the ground, which would mean the drones could save their power for deliveries. Though the filing does say that the UAVs would use almost no power as they glided down from the flying warehouses, which would cruise and hover at altitudes up to 45,000 feet.
The documents also lay out plans for a mesh network that would allow the drones, AFCs, and shuttles to communicate with each other, sharing details about weather, wind speeds, and routing, for example. Additionally, Amazon wants all the components of the system to communicate with remote computing resources and a command center in charge of inventory.
As with all patents, there’s no guarantee the AFCs will ever make it beyond the filing stage. But there could come a day when an army of drones descends into a stadium from a giant blimp to deliver hot dogs and beer as you watch your team.