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Amazon seemingly has been sampling some of the books in its science fiction category. In a recently discovered (and approved) patent application, the retailer requested protection for an idea for floating warehouses—airborne fulfillment centers (AFC) in its terminology—that would cruise around at about 45,000 feet and support drone deliveries to consumers. Smaller airships would keep the big blimp-like AFCs supplied with sufficient inventory. With this innovation, Amazon anticipates that it could reduce costs and increase delivery speed. For example, the patent application notes that the AFCs would rely on helium or hot air, creating less density than the surrounding air, so that their fuel requirements would be minimal. The delivery drones would rely mainly on gliding, again with little need for additional energy to power them. Then Amazon could send the AFCs to relevant locations; one noted example suggested that it could park above a sports stadium during a big game, such that spectators could order food items or additional cold weather gear and have it delivered right to their seats. Although many of Amazon’s patents refer to technology that it has not used (yet), the retailer’s active efforts to expand its drone delivery capabilities suggest that the AFCs might not be outside the realm of the possible.

Source: Tom Ryan, Retail Wire, December 30, 2016