Skip to main content

Amazon’s proposed ‘Drone Towers’ would look and sound like giant beehives

amazon drone tower patent concept image
Image used with permission by copyright holder
In case you didn’t already know it, Amazon envisions a world where the skies buzz with autonomous drones carrying packages from fulfillment centers to customers’ homes. The ecommerce giant has long been working on its Prime Air flying machine, though strict regulations governing the commercial use of such contraptions means that a full-fledged, drone delivery service is still a ways off.

Still, that doesn’t stop Amazon making plans, evidenced by a string of related patents landing on the desk of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in recent years.

The latest one focuses on the design of its fulfillment centers and how it could be adapted to suit drone delivery operations in urban areas.

Currently, most of Amazon’s depots comprise single-floor warehouses built away from city centers. Its latest patent describes a multilevel fulfillment center “designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles.”


Illustrations included in the patent application show a giant beehive “drone tower” with numerous exit and entry points for delivery drones. For reasons of speed and efficiency, it’s perfectly understandable that Amazon would want to base a drone delivery operation in an urban area, enabling it to reach more customers in superquick time. However, the company would first have to satisfy regulators that having so many drones flying in such a concentrated area posed no safety issues for people on the ground, and noise could also potentially be an issue for occupants of nearby buildings.

While Amazon’s latest idea may seem fanciful to many observers, it’s clearly not as wacky as the flying warehouse with incorporated drone airport that it proposed in another patent.

Another patent described using the top of street lights, cell towers, and church steeples as docking stations to charge its drones as they make their way to and from customers’ homes.

Of course, we should note that at this stage Amazon’s plan for a drone tower is only a patent application, and that even if it’s granted by the USPTO, there’s a chance it will forever remain as an idea on a piece of paper.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
From pizza to transplant organs: What drones will be delivering in the 2020s
ups test drone deliveries cyphy partnership

From drone racing to drone photography, quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles rose to prominence in the 2010s. But in the decade to come they’re going to become an even bigger thing in the next 10 years. Case in point: Deliveries by drone.

Who should you be watching in this space? What kind of goodies can you expect to have flown to your front door sometime in the 2020s? Read on to find out everything you need about the fantastic future of freight.
Amazon Prime Air
Amazon Prime Air delivery drone Image used with permission by copyright holder

Read more
Wing launches the first commercial drone delivery service in the United States
episode 216 google wing

Drone delivery has officially started in the United States.
Drone delivery service Wing began delivering over-the-counter medication, as well as snacks and gifts, to people who live and work in the town of Christiansburg, Virginia, this week.
The company recently acquired an expanded Air Carrier Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows it to operate. That certificate allows “multiple pilots to oversee multiple unmanned aircraft making commercial deliveries simultaneously to the general public.”
Wing Launches America's First Commercial Drone Delivery Service to Homes in Christiansburg, Virginia
Google-owned Wing is working with Walgreens, FedEx Express, and Virginia retailer Sugar Magnolia on the project, the company said via a Medium post announcing the inaugural delivery.
FedEx is expected to complete its first scheduled e-commerce drone delivery using Wing’s drones, making it the first delivery company to use a drone for that “last mile” delivery.
Customers in the area can opt-in to using the drone service for deliveries. When the drones make one of those deliveries, packages will be gently lowered to a small, designated part of that customer’s yard or driveway. After the delivery is complete, the drone will return to its “nest” in North Christiansburg.
“Our near-term focus is providing a great experience for our customers in Christiansburg, and getting feedback on how they can best use the service,” a Wing spokesperson told Digital Trends last month when it originally announced its plans for the trial. “We’re excited about the potential to expand but we don’t have specific plans to announce.”
While Wing is the first company to be certified by the FAA, Amazon currently is working on its own delivery drone and UPS has announced a drone delivery program in partnership with drone-maker Matternet in July.
Amazon’s drone should be making its first public appearance relatively soon. The company announced in June that it planned to start using drones to deliver packages to customers “in the coming months.”
Its drone has six rotors and can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane. The first Prime Air delivery drone was unveiled in 2013. Amazon’s services had already made a few deliveries, the first of which happened in 2013 in Cambridge, England.

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more