Amazon Looks to the Sky to Store Products

Amazon is the latest tech company to join the April Fool's Day fun. Unfortunately, their timing is a bit off, and their joke was announced 3 months early.

Reuters reports that Amazon has filed for a patent to use airships to store products and serve as a base for delivery-drones. The patent application was filed two years ago but was spotted only on Wednesday by Zoe Leavitt, an analyst at technology data and research firm CB Insights.

According to the patent filing, drones launched from the so-called "airborne fulfillment centers" (AFCs) would use far less power than those launched from the ground. The AFCs would hover at about 45,000 feet (13,700 meters) and be restocked and resupplied by "shuttles or smaller airships."

Amazon, which was not immediately available for comment, has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries next year. Those plans involve Amazon's existing terrestrial warehouses, rather than some floating Santa' workshop.

Seriously, folks, this patent simply is not practical and has to be someone's joke which was then taken seriously by Amazon's lawyers.

Can't you just picture a bunch of engineers sitting around, bullshitting the most ridiculous delivery methods, and then coming up with this idea?

I can. The problem with the idea of a warehouse on a zeppelin is that warehouses are made to store as much as possible as cheaply as possible. Like any aircraft, a zeppelin is not cheap. It might be a viable form of transportation, but storage - paying to keep something up in the air indefinitely - is not a plausible use.

image by masaka

9 Comments on Amazon Looks to the Sky to Store Products

  1. Okay, let me just say that airship bashing is not acceptable anymore.

    Zeppelins and blimps are beautiful, highly visual and really cool things that populate Steampunk novels and Blade Runner skies. Arguing about their technological practicality is what had kept them from widespread use.

    I refuse to live in a future without big colorful Zeppelin’s floating over the cities. We have to stop these knee jerk airship attacks based on old arguments like “they don’t work” or “they blow up a lot.” I applaud Amazon for exploring the possibilities of giant floating warehouses. Hopefully the last mile can be handled by women in googles with jet packs. If one or two blow up or crash into buildings, I think that’s a small price to pay for making geek dreams come true.

    Please, get over your airship prejudices and open your mind to the wonderful possibilities. If we can’t make airships work, then we have no chance of getting a Star Trek transporter either.

    • The problem with the idea of a warehouse on a zeppelin is that warehouses are made to store as much as possible as cheaply as possible.

      Like any aircraft, a zeppelin is not cheap. It might be a viable form of transportation, but storage – paying to keep something up in the air indefinitely – is not a plausible use.

  2. The good will generated by Amazon floating really cool Zeppelin’s over cities and delivering packages by women in jet packs and goggles would outweigh other economic considerations.

  3. I wonder if they could save taxes by taking it to the air. Airspace over a state is probably still taxed by the state but thats the only reason I’d see Amazon looking for ways to ditch their main ground warehouses.

  4. If they were to implement it at all I could see it for specific promotions, such as a branded airship with Superbowl merchandise, or World Cup stuff. Just ridiculously high-priced designer collectible items for the inhabitants of Stratos or Dubai.

    Solar-powered airships can stay up a long time and they double as billboards. They could also be surveillance platforms for directing autonomous delivery vehicles on the ground.

    • Amazon does a lot of work for the CIA and the US government. Maybe surveillance platform is a key aspect. In big cities, especially, it could conceivably be cheaper to float something than rent or buy buildings. And if you float it over areas Homeland Security wants to monitor, like vulnerable infrastructure, it becomes a little less far fetched.

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