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Bizarre Google patent describes a box on wheels that receives drone deliveries

Besides Amazon and Walmart, Google, too, has its eye on launching a commercial, drone-based delivery operation, claiming recently it could be up and running as early as next year.

After abandoning its initial effort to build a delivery drone, Google offered us a sneak peek of an all-new design in October. While it hasn’t said much about the drone or its proposed service, a recently granted patent suggests it’s also looking at other technologies directly linked with its drone effort.

The patent, spotted on Tuesday by Reuters, describes a “delivery receptacle” – essentially a high-tech box on wheels – capable of taking delivery of a package from a drone and looking after the item until the customer is ready to receive it.

Related: Amazon wants a chunk of airspace given over to delivery drones

Explaining the idea in more detail, Google says the receptacle would be notified of a pending delivery, giving it time to position itself outside the recipient’s home.

Infrared beacons from several transmitters aboard the receptacle and technology on the drone would help the two devices to locate one another. When the package-carrying copter arrives, “the aerial delivery device deposits the package in the delivery receptacle. After receiving the package the delivery receptacle transports the package to a secure location, such as into a garage.”

The necessity for such a vehicle isn’t entirely clear, after all, couldn’t the drone simply deposit the package outside the delivery address, as Amazon plans for its Prime Air service? Also, if the box is going to enter a garage, how would it open it? If it’s about keeping the package away from opportunist thieves, can’t it be dropped in the yard if there is one, or simply delivered when someone’s in? And who’s to say someone won’t steal the box?

OK, there are clearly more questions than answers here, but at the very least the patent seems to show that the Mountain View company is exploring different ways to build out its final system. Although this box may not end up as part of it.

If you’ve any idea what Google’s thinking with its “delivery receptacle” patent, do sound off in the comments below.