Amazon invents birdhouse-style drone stations for streetlights

Please don’t feed the drones. They may be sitting in what looks like a birdhouse, but seeds or breadcrumbs don’t agree with them.

Amazon has received a patent for docking stations on streetlight posts, cell phone towers  and buildings so delivery drones can recharge and download information about an impending thunder storm or other weather activity.

The stations are intended to allow for package delivery at a point in time when unmanned-aerial vehicles generally lack the ability to travel long distances carrying heavy goods. “The range provided by current UAV technology . . . makes deliveries over a wide area – e.g. throughout a city, or even a portion of a city – difficult,” Amazon’s patent documents said.

Amazon envisions some drone houses providing perches for two or more drones, and the stations may be equipped with solar panels, according to the patent, granted earlier this month and brought to light by tech website The Next Web.

But the patent also reveals that electricity is not the only power option Amazon is eyeing for drones. For UAVs powered by liquid or gaseous fuels, the stations could contain filled-up fuel tanks a drone can take on while dropping off an empty one.

A package lowered down from the dock could even be delivered to a buyer at the base, or picked up there by a delivery person “in a truck, car, on a scooter, or using other transportation means.”

There, however, is the rub. It may be cheaper and easier to deliver many items entirely by ground transportation – if labor cost can be taken out of the driving equation. As Amazon looks to the skies in the race to speed warehouse-to-door delivery, a company called Starship Technologies is pushing to start deploying its six-wheeled delivery robots – with a two-mile range – in Washington, D.C. in coming months, and has already set one loose for a test-cruise in San Francisco.

Starship is only one of many companies working on ground-based automous-vehicle delivery. South San Francisco’s Dispatch has been testing its own sidewalk-going delivery robot on the campuses of Menlo College and Cal State University Monterey Bay.


Image: Amazon patent diagram for a delivery drone docking station (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)


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  • Reed More

    “UAVs powered by liquid or gaseous fuels, the stations could contain
    filled-up fuel tanks a drone can take on while dropping off an empty

    Great until one of these fueled drones crashes into your backyard while your child is playing or into one of the very dry grass hills.