Just imagine it – you’re lying in the park on a roasting hot day and you see it. A shadow overhead. Is it superman? Is it rain? No, it’s your Amazon Prime ice lolly order being gently parachuted down to your location via drone in your time of lazy need.
This is a scenario that could very well be on the drone-populated horizon if a recent patent (opens in new tab) granted to Amazon is anything to go by. Issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the patent depicts a shipping label fitted with built-in parachutes.
The idea is that the shipping label would house a series of cords, a parachute, a breakaway cover and a harness to keep everything in place. The patent also depicts several sensors to make sure the delivery is landing in the correct area as well as a shock absorber to keep the package secure both when the parachute is deployed and just in case it ends up coming to Earth with a force more akin to a hailstone than a snowflake.
Down to Earth
Naturally, it’d be easy to adapt the size or number of parachutes used to support a variety of package sizes and weights.
Considering Amazon is getting fairly serious in its push for deliveries via drone, the use of parachutes isn’t too hard to imagine. We saw the first Prime Air delivery take place in the UK all the way back in December 2016 with another demonstration taking place in the US in March.
Considering legislation limitations, Amazon are moving along surprisingly quickly. The use of parachutes arguably makes a lot of sense as it could make it possible for drones to deliver in areas where it’s not possible to have landing pads, or where the drones are restricted to maintaining certain heights.
Adverse weather conditions are no doubt something to consider; it’d be less than ideal to make a light order on a windy day and find yourself scaling a tree to retrieve it.
Despite the fact that the drone will apparently not be able to fly back to the deployment center until it knows the package has been delivered safely to the ground, it's hard to imagine what it'd be capable of doing in the aforementioned scenario other than hover in a panicked manner.
This is, however, just a patent (one of many Amazon has filed as part of its exploration of drone delivery possibilities which have genuinely included airborne fulfillment centers (opens in new tab)) so there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see it become a reality.