Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Amazon’s Vision of Drone Deliveries Now Involves Parachutes

Why bother to land when you can toss parcels from the sky instead?

What goes up, must … then drop a parcel from a great height.

That’s apparently what engineers at Amazon think could happen with its much-touted delivery drones. While the e-commerce giant has already delivered packages to paying customers in the U.K. using its aircraft, it did so by landing in a large patch of open ground. Now, in a patent, it has outlined how it could drop packages from the air instead.

The patent describes a way to reliably eject a payload from a drone in midflight. Usually, such a drop would see the package descend along a parabolic arc, caused by the forward motion of the aircraft—but that might not jive too well with the neighbors. Instead, Amazon's idea is to apply a force as the package leaves the drone to have it descend vertically.

It also suggests that the package container could have some simple built-in method of correcting its descent. It may, for instance, feature aileron-like flaps that can tweak its course, with instructions relayed wirelessly from the drone above.

Amazon isn’t the only company to think that dropping parcels from the air without a motor is a good idea. The San Francisco-based startup Otherlab recently unveiled its own disposable cardboard drones, which glide a payload to their destination once dropped from a larger mother ship.

But for all these bright ideas, regulations still stand in the way of drone delivery in most parts of the world—that’s why Amazon is testing the idea in rural England, after all. Until that changes, the only parcel drop you’re going to get is from the height of your mailbox.

(Read more: USPTO, “These Paper Drones Are Built for One-Way Missions,” “An Amazon Drone Has Delivered Its First Products to a Paying Customer,” "U.K. Signs a Deal with Amazon to Test Delivery Drones")

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.