As Amazon's much-anticipated US drone delivery service draws ever closer, the retail giant has been looking at ways of getting parcels from the UAVs to customers without landing them. One solution: parachutes.
Amazon first applied for the patent, titled "Maneuvering a package following in-flight release from an unmanned aerial vehicle," back in June 2015, but it was only granted yesterday by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The patent describes firing the packages backward while the UAV is in the air to cancel out its forward movement. The drone could alter the amount of force used to propel the parcel, depending on where it wants it to land, and could monitor the descent and adjust it if necessary using either a parachute, bursts of compressed air, or other similar technologies.
Landing a drone when delivering a parcel isn't always going to be possible, especially in busy urban areas. And even if it is, there's the risk of the UAV accidentally hitting a person, pet, tree, etc. Releasing a package above a home and being able to control its fall could solve this issue.
We still don't know when Amazon drone deliveries will begin in the US. The company started testing the system in the UK last year in the hope that it would convince the FAA to relax some of its rules regarding commercial UAV flights.
Like all patents, there's no guarantee that this one will ever make it into the real world, and there would likely be legal issues to contend with first.
Another drone-related patent from Amazon came to light in December. This one involving giant, blimp-like "airborne fulfillment centers (AFC)," that carry fleets of drones and goods.
Amazon drone delivery patent #9567081 on Scribd