March 26, 2023

There’s no shortage of drone delivery concepts that have been floated by major retailers. None more so than Amazon, which is determined to make its Prime Air service a reality. Although testing for that is currently underway in Cambridge, England, a recent patent published in the US shows how Amazon envisions its drones working in an urban context.

The patent, published on June 22nd, depict’s Amazon’s concept of a ‘multi-layered fulfilment center’. In theory, these would be placed within cities and accommodate everything needed to get delivery drones off the ground. If it looks like a giant beehive, it’s because that’s basically what it is.

amazon beehive patent







As the images above show, Amazon’s beehive fulfilment centers will operate like a sort of insect colony. A multi-tiered system will allow for a constant stream of incoming and outgoing drones.

Amazon’s solution for urban drone delivery?

“By locating the fulfilment centers within the cities, items may be more quickly delivered to the growing population of people that live in the cities, as well as the large population of people who work in the cities,” the application says.

Amazon’s beehive concept could solve two issues facing potential drone delivery in urban areas. The first is flight time. The multi-tiered system means that Amazon’s drones could, in theory, fly from a relatively central location within a city and have a delivery range covering the most populated areas.

Second, the beehive concept goes some way to answering what kind of infrastructure might need to be built to accommodate delivery drones – at least at the launch end of the system. It could include an “internal transport robot”, responsible for sorting and preparing launches and incoming drones, as well as an “impact dampener” (some kind of net) to catch drones running low on power or experiencing a mechanical failure.