Culture

Revealed: Amazon's Creepiest, Most Militaristic-Sounding Plan Yet

Giant airship warehouses? Why?

Photo Credit: Rustic / Shutterstock

In April, Amazon filed a patent for their "aerial fulfillment center," an "airship" from which drones descend to deliver your packages. But it was an analyst at CB Insights who finally broke the news this week.

According to Amazon’s patent, the system would rely on blimps operating at approximately 45,000 feet.

"You have commercial airlines flying at 41,000 feet, some can go to 43," confirmed Scott Hamilton, an aviation-industry consultant for Leeham Company.

"But just to have the drones floating down through all the traffic lanes is just loony," Hamilton said.

Through flying the drones to Earth, deliveries could consistently be completed within minutes. The drones would then be flown back to the blimp via shuttle after the delivery was completed. Drones can only run for about a half hour, so accomodating these time limitations is key. 

Another major issue is completing a delivery in a high-traffic location, especially since the company views sporting events as a key area for this service. And stadium owners may not be willing to designate specified areas for drone deliveries.

Amazon completed its first drone delivery from a land-based warehouse this month. A fully autonomous 4.7 pounds drone flew 13 minutes to deliver a Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to a man in the U.K.’s countryside on December 7, 2016. 

While Amazon is just over two decades old, the plan is, in many ways, a century in the making. 

According to Richard Whittle, author of “Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution” and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, the U.S. military's attempts to build a remote-controlled aircraft for missions date back to the dawn of powered flight.”

"In 1917, Elmer Sperry received the first contract to develop an aerial torpedo—an unmanned flight system—for the Navy," New Orleans-based business reporter explained. . 

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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