Amazon’s recent innovations to further develop their delivery system and overall business model have resulted in beehive-shaped drone centers. Amazon envisions cities around the U.S. having vertical drone centers that enable the online retailer to coordinate quick and efficient deliveries through the use of unmanned drones. By establishing distribution centers that act as relay points for aerial deliveries, Amazon is continually progressing itself forward while still maintain a lean supply chain.
Amazon has filed for a patent for “multi-level fulfillment centers” that accommodate the landing and takeoff of drones in dense urban settings. Initial designs of the centers display tall cylindrical buildings that would be located in central metropolitan areas, with freight dock and customer pick-up locations on the ground floors, while the upper floor locations are dedicated to drone storage and human operator space.
The centers allow Amazon to shift away from the traditional model of large warehouses that act as both distribution centers and storage facilities for packages before they are shipped to customers. These distribution centers are typically located on the outskirts of urban areas, making them insufficient and inconvenient for deliveries into cities with growing populations.
Furthermore, there are usually fewer distributions centers that hold larger quantities of stock, requiring constant use in order to ensure lower waste costs. Travel times are then depended on the location of distribution centers, which lowers consistency and can lead to an increase in cost pertaining to drivers and vehicle maintenance.
Location in the centers of cities enables a faster delivery even in cities with growing populations and enables ready access to onsite labor while also requiring lower costing rent rates and less waste costs. The centers are predicted to fulfill hundreds of thousands of orders a day by relying on a large volume of drones that continually pick up deliveries to either deliver straight to the customer or to their nearest drone center. Drone centers will have battery recharging stations allowing for short downtimes, maximizing the amount of time possible to be spent delivery packages.
Due to the large amount of overview management required, the drone centers will have a central command center to control flight operations, similar to command centers utilized by airports. While fully stocked to facilitate their new emphasis and priority on drone delivery, the drone centers are designed to include for traditional vehicle deliveries, as potentially an onsite customer location, considering the central urban location allowing for more readily accessible storing capabilities.
Obstacles that Amazon will face regarding their new drone centers focus on a range of regulatory commercial drone laws, including attempts to control their movement and local zoning and development laws. Foreseeing this, Amazon partnered up with the British government to run tests exploring the viability of small package drone delivery. Amazon later reported that its test was successful, providing support that could overcome drone delivery regulations.
While Amazon is still working on their drone centers, the company continues to strategize and constantly improve their supply chain, through further development and innovation. Amazon have also filed a patent for flying warehouses called “airborne fulfillment centers.” These would solve the problem of traditional distribution centers being located on the outskirts of urban areas, allowing the storage facilities to be more readily accessible. In tandem with this patent, Amazon are looking into parachute-aided delivery of packages, reducing drone flight time while maintaining delivery times, further progressing their supply chain to be most efficient.
Skeptics have argued that the barrage of drone-related patents has been utilized to accumulate free publicity over innovating their supply chain. Were this the case, Amazon may face some backlash should publicity be their only intended goal. Regardless of their reasons, the projected innovations certainly cast a vision on the future of package delivery and acts as a great example for companies seeking to grow.