An Amazon patent describes one way Amazon might actually be able to pull off safe deliveries with its “Amazon Prime Air” project in crowded areas. Filed earlier this week, a patent titled “Maneuvering a package following in-flight release from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)” describes a method of parachuting packages to customers from drones.
“A package delivery system can be implemented to forcefully propel a package from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), while the UAV is in motion,” the Amazon patent abstract says. “The UAV can apply a force onto the package that alters its descent trajectory from a parabolic path to a vertical descent path. The package delivery system can apply the force onto the package in a number of different ways. For example, pneumatic actuators, electromagnets, spring coils, and parachutes can generate the force that establishes the vertical descent path of the package. Further, the package delivery system can also monitor the package during its vertical descent. The package can be equipped with one or more control surfaces. Instructions can be transmitted from the UAV via an RF module that cause the one or more controls surfaces to alter the vertical descent path of the package to avoid obstructions or to regain a stable orientation.”
Packages won’t fall on your head
Put simply, Amazon wants to drop packages from its drones and navigate them down to the destination, like your yard, using all sorts of tech. The company has already proved that it can deliver a package safely, but that was in a relatively remote area. If a package is being dropped in a crowded neighborhood, or perhaps in an area with a lot of trees, the system might be able to control the descent of the package so that it avoids those obstacles.
This is important because the FAA is concerned about the dangers of drones whizzing through the skies. Amazon needs to prove that the drones themselves aren’t only safe, but that packages can be delivered without boxes falling all over the place.
This is a patent, so it doesn’t necessarily prove that Amazon is going to ever deliver on this sort of system, but it certainly sounds plausible.