Inc. (AMZN) may be aiming for blimps after drones. 

Research firm CB Insights uncovered a patent filed by the company that describes warehouses in the sky circling cities at a height of 45,000 feet and stocked with delivery drones. Described as an “Airborne Fulfillment Center” by Amazon, the system envisages an airship with unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs containing customer-ordered items. “As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user-specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent,” the patent’s authors write. Once it has completed delivery, the UAV will be directed to the nearest physical Amazon fulfillment on the ground for replenishment and loading onto a smaller airship that may be used to refill the center with customer orders or transport workers to and from it. (For related reading, see also: Is Amazon Stock Still a Bargain at All-Time Highs?)

Because it would be in the sky, Amazon’s planned fulfillment center could be transported anywhere based on demand and used for a variety of purposes. As an example, the company states that the fulfillment center could be used at a “sporting event” venue. “In advance of the event, the items may be delivered to the AFC in a quantity sufficient to satisfy the expected demand and the AFC may navigate to a position such that UAVs deployed from the AFC can safely navigate to the location of the event and deliver the items, thereby satisfying the demand,” the patent’s authors write. Other anticipated uses for the center is more conventional: making product announcements, advertising and distributing flyers for events.   

While Amazon has not provided a timeline for this method of delivery, it is safe to assume that the air warehouse is not happening anytime soon. This is due to a couple of reasons. For starters, current drone regulations would need to catch up with Amazon’s plans to make such a plan possible. For example, drones are currently required to fly within line of sight of the pilot and below 400 feet. 

A report on the CNN website points out another problem with such a venture. For example, the fulfillment centers might come into conflict with passenger cargo airplanes. This is especially a problem with dense urban centers and highly trafficked locations, such as New York City. (For more, see also: Amazon Tests First Drone Delivery.) 

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