Amazon’s ‘drone dock’ tower looks terrifying, but it’s the future

Late last week it emerged that Amazon had applied for a patent and the whole thing looked like something of a dystopian nightmare. 

The application in question comes as a follow-up to the online retail juggernaut’s ‘Prime Air’ initiative. (That is the system of drone deliveries that are currently being trialed, though you’d be forgiven for losing track of everything the company has branded ‘Prime Something’). It shows a beehive-looking structure, where drones can dock and be restocked with another delivery. 

With urban areas getting more and more densely populated, Amazon says that its current delivery centres are being relegated to the outskirts which means that its Prime Now service (delivery within two hours) and even the ambitious Prime Air (delivery within 30 minutes) are more difficult to provide.

However, this new application looks to rectify that by building these new delivery towers in the heart of cities. Amazon states that they would blend into the environment, though it’ll be some time before most people are accustomed to seeing hundreds of drones flying out of a building in an hour. 

In order to remain secure (and stop pesky rogue drones from flying in), the patent describes locked landing platforms that authenticate via wireless communication to let the right drone in. 

If that wasn’t sci-fi enough for you, the application also includes plans for robots to help human workers fill orders and carry and carry out maintenance on the drones. Not wanting to leave out the traditional delivery methods, the towers could accept shipments from trucks and boats (if close enough to water). There’s even a consideration in one form of the patent application for a click-and-collect-like service.

As with any patent application, this doesn’t mean that Amazon is set on the idea of building drone-spouting monoliths in the centre of cities, but just that it has considered the idea. Other absurd-sounding patent applications from the retailer include a floating warehouse sitting at 45,000 feet above the ground.

But the main takeaway from all of this is that delivery is changing. Next-day delivery is the new three-to-five working days. Consumers demand faster service than ever before, and this is the latest indicator that Amazon has its finger on the pulse. While it may be unpractical and financially unviable for most online retailers to invest in the likes of robots and drones, the focus going forward may not so much be in undercutting competitors in cost, but rather in ensuring customers can get what they want quickly.

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