Ever since Jeff Bezos teased the idea of drone deliveries on 60 Minutes in 2013, the tech world has been abuzz with the idea. At the time Bezos said that the reality of drone deliveries wasn’t there yet, but he thought it just might be in 4-5 years.
Based on when Bezos made that prediction, that’s about now, and from the looks of it Amazon’s been working hard on ideas to make drone delivered milk a reality.
One of the limiting factors for drone delivery has been battery life. High-quality drones usually can stay in the air for only 30 minutes, and the longer a drone has to recharge, the less packages a fleet can deliver.
Not surprisingly, Amazon has been thinking about this and one of the ideas they’ve come up to ensure you can get your drone-delivered milk is to create flying delivery-bots that recharge…while still in the air. The concept explained in their just-issued patent is similar to that of a wind turbine, but instead of giant propellers the drones will have on-board propellers that spin to generate energy. The patent also describes how the the propellers are adjustable to maximize energy generation and that energy would be created both by windflow and kinetic (in-motion) energy.
The above graphic shows the concept of how the drone will monitors flight paths to find higher-wind flight paths to ensure maximal energy generation. The drone will both change flight path and as well as adjust the energy-generating propellers to make sure they are generating both the most wind-generated and kinetic energy as possible.
The concept of energy generating drones isn’t entirely new. Researchers have been discussing the idea of using tethered drones to produce energy through the use of small mini-wind turbines on board for a couple years, but the concept have largely centered around how drones could basically act as a windmill replacement. What’s novel about Amazon’s idea is that the energy generation concept appears to be focused on how to recharge the on-board battery to ensure longer flight time as well as higher overall in-air utilization.
No word on when we’ll see Amazon’s energy-generating drones, but if Bezos had his way, they might just be around the corner.