It's not that drones get tired. But delivering your box of cat food and low-rise socks, dropping down to put them on your patio, and then flying back up for the next delivery takes power they need to conserve.
Better to just hover over your home and drop the box, a new patent from Amazon proposes.
No need to cover your head: the Seattle e-commerce giant has that — and the delivery box full of your precious items — covered, at least in theory.
Amazon last week received a patent for cushioning packages with inflatable air bags so they can be dropped from as high as 25 feet.
The drone could inflate the "airlift package protection air bag" with a gas canister or even just from the downdraft from the aircraft's propellers while in transit or "near a drop location, such as a backyard or patio of a residential dwelling," the patent said.
This patent, like at least two others Amazon has received, also envisions the possibility of catastrophic midair failure. To minimize damage to the drone and anything or anyone on the ground, the air bag for the package could also wrap around part of the drone, and be inflated if the aircraft loses power or flies out of control, according to the patent.
Should you be, say, barbecuing on your patio when your delivery drone appears, there's no reason to worry, but if you want your package, you will need to get out of the way — and take your bottles of beer with you. The drone could use cameras and other sensors to make sure the "drop zone" is empty of people, animals and "fragile objects," and then decline to make the delivery till all is clear, according to the patent.
A drone could even be constructed in such a way that it could let loose a package that would travel "partially horizontally" to land on "an elevated balcony of a tall building."
The air bag Amazon envisions would deflate slightly upon impact when a package hits the ground to cushion the landing and protect a package's contents.
Energy consumption is an important consideration for drones, which "may conserve energy if they minimize changes in altitude," the patent application says in explaining why dropping packages from the sky makes sense.