Amazon’s blimps will have company in the sky, according to a new patent revealing that Walmart too wants to develop the aircraft.
The discount retail giant has been granted a patent for ‘gas-filled carrier aircrafts’ that would serve as airborne bases for fleets of delivery drones.
It strikes similar to the one filed last year by Amazon, indicating that tensions are heating up between the two companies as they compete to dominate e-commerce shopping.
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Walmart has been granted a patent for ‘gas-filled carrier aircrafts’ that would serve as airborne bases for fleets of delivery drones. It strikes similar to the one filed last year by Amazon, indicating that tensions are heating up between the two companies as they compete to dominate e-commerce shopping
THE WALMART PATENT
Walmart was granted a patent for blimps that would serve as airborne bases for fleets of delivery drones.
A carrier compartment would house packages and drones and communicate with a scheduling system to deploy deliveries.
The blimps would fly at altitudes up to 10,000 feet.
The patent is similar to one filed last year by Amazon, indicating tensions are heating up between the two companies competing to dominate e-commerce.
‘There are numerous ways to distribute and deliver products,’ the patent reads.
‘Getting the product to a delivery location, however, can cause undesirable delays, can add cost, and reduce revenue.’
The patent then goes on to describe a system that includes a gas-filled transport vehicle with a carrier compartment that could house packages and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), known as drones.
‘One or more UAS launching bays are included in the carrier compartment that enables the UASs to be launched while the transport aircraft is in flight and while UASs are carrying a product or package to be delivered to an intends correspondence delivery location,’ the patent explains.
It also reveals the blimps would fly at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet and communicate with a remote scheduling system that would determine when the drones should fetch a package and swoop down to make a delivery.
Pictured is an overhead view of an exemplary carrier compartment, which would house drones and they packages they would deliver
That’s significantly lower than Amazon’s proposed blimp, which would fly above the clouds at altitudes up to 45,000 feet.
While both companies have patented the blimp-drone systems, there is no indication either is working on actually building them at this time.
Walmart announced interest in delivering packages using drones in 2015, two years after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the prototype of his firm’s ‘Prime Air’ delivery drone in a 60 Minutes interview.
Last month, Walmart announce it would begin testing its delivery drones at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.
The company was approved for a two-year deal, in which it had to pay $1.6 million to the county for space – including a 28,000-square-foot hanger – at the airport.
The company has even looked into using drones insides its retail locations – In March, Walmart was granted a patent for a system in which drones would move items between the stores’ different departments.
An exemplary look at the control systems of Walmart’s proposed blimp, as shown in the patent
Last December, an Amazon patent revealed the firm’s own plan to use giant blimp-like flying warehouses to help its drones make deliveries
Described as ‘airborne fulfilment centres’ (AFC), these airships will hover over cities at 45,000 ft before releasing drones to deliver goods.
The patent followed new that Amazon had made the first successful delivery by drone, after shipping a parcel to a customer in Cambridge.
Amazon plans to use giant flying warehouses to help its drones make deliveries, a new patent reveals
Described as ‘airborne fulfilment centres’ (AFC), these airships will hove over cities at 45,000ft before releasing drones to deliver goods
The patent was filed in May of 2016 and uncovered by Zoe Leavitt of CB Insights.
The giant, possibly autonomous, airships could help speed up deliveries around the world.
‘The AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet),’ the patent says.
‘UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations.
The giant, possibly autonomous, airships could help speed up deliveries around the world. The patent describes a range of applications for the flying warehouses. For instance, it could flying above a football game loaded with sporting equipment and snacks for spectators
The autonomous blimps would carry huge numbers of drones and packages ready for delivery
‘Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc.
‘Likewise, the shuttles may be utilised to transport workers to and from the AFC.’
The patent goes on to describe a range of applications for the flying warehouses.
For instance, it could flying above a football game loaded with sporting equipment and snacks for spectators.
A fleet of Amazon’s drones could then be released to make individual deliveries
Based on this image from the patent filing, Amazon may want to develop a fully automated airborne delivery system
‘Perishable items or even prepared meals can be delivered in a timely fashion to a user,’ the patent says.
The latest patent follows another by Amazon discovered this week for defenses against attacks in the sky.
It reveals an electronic system that detects signal jammers and a parachute-like device if it is hit by another object.
Amazon is looking beyond the usually issues at other threats such as hacking or ‘a malicious person shooting an arrow’ to take down the drone. ‘A protective device such as an airbag, foam, parachute, bumper and so forth could be used in this scenario
The patent, called ‘Countermeasure for Threats to an Uncrewed Autonomous Vehicle’, was filed on November 17, 2014 and was published last week.
If a drone is stuck with a rock, gun or even an arrow, the system will deploy ‘a protective device such as an airbag, foam, parachute, bumper and so forth’.
Or the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), could shift into a mode such as configuring autorotation of one or more rotors.
Amazon gives an example of a person shooting the drone with a gun, which causes it to fall towards Earth.
‘The compromise module may detect the gunshot and loss altitude, and the fail-safe module may cause the parachute to deploy, which may reduce the severity of the impact between the UAV and another object, such as the ground’.
‘The countermeasures may reduce or eliminate ill-intentioned acts, inadvertent system failures, or mitigate the impact of such acts or failures,’ reads the patent.
WILL DELIVERIES BE FASTER?
Impatient shoppers will be pleased to hear that Amazon’s drones could significantly speed up the speed at which deliveries can be made.
The plan is for Amazon’s PrimeAir service to eventually deliver small packages weighing up to 5lbs (2.27kg) in 30 minutes or less.
If a drone is stuck with a rock, gun or even an arrow, the device will employ ‘a protective device such as an airbag, foam, parachute, bumper and so forth’. ‘The foam may be designed to coat or cover at least a portion of one or more surfaces of the UAV
Amazon got British approval for three new types of tests, including flying drones that are no longer within sight of their operators in rural and suburban areas.
The other two are having one person operate several highly automated drones and testing devices to make the drones able to identify and avoid obstacles.
During the test the drones will be only allowed to fly an altitude of 400ft (122m) and kept away from operating near airport flight paths.
Amazon’s method to protect its delivery drones from faceless hackers uses electronic systems that will detect signal jammers or other types of hacking attackers. If it appears there is some vulnerability, the system will select a frequency that seems to be less of a risk