Online shopping giant Amazon.com Inc. has had a patent published regarding beacon pods that are intended to provide location information to delivery drones.
Originally filed in March 2015 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent details technology that could replicate the now common global position system (GPS), which would assist delivery drones locate and navigate to customer homes in regions that lack strong satellite signals.
The patent states, “The beacon pods may emit location information, which may replicate global positioning system (GPS) satellite information, provide a homing signal, provide access to a mobile telephone network as a signal repeater or booster, and/or provide other information and/or connectivity to a (drone), which may aid navigation and/or other operations of (drones).”
Consumers could connect the beacon pods to their home’s power and computing networks, boosting the pods’ onboard communications. Homing signals would allow the drone to establish approximate coordinates between their current location and the delivery address. A local transceiver would store the latitude and longitude of the drone, and would be powered by a renewable energy resource such as a solar panel.
Current delivery drone technology commonly relies of GPS and/or a command station that makes use of a mobile phone network to receive location data in order to successfully find and navigate to the destination. In areas lacking sufficient access to GPS or mobile networks, such as some rural or wilderness areas, or regions that frequently experience inclement weather, successful delivery by drone is not possible. The beacon pod system seeks to mitigate this stumbling block.
The patent continues, “Hosts of the beacon pods, such as users that connect the beacon pods to available infrastructure (e.g., power, networks, etc.), may benefit from use of the beacon pods by gaining better service from the UAVs, improved reception to a communication signals/sources, and/or by receiving other rewards and/or discounts (e.g., cheaper delivery of items, etc.). The beacon pods may log interactions with the UAVs for various purposes, and may report at least some interaction data to other devices, such as a command station. This data may be used for tracking UAVs, among other possible uses.
Rewards to users who allow the drones to utilise their networks could be in the form of discounted connection to communication networks, or some form of credits, cash or coupons.
This isn’t a guarantee that Amazon will implement the beacon pod technology. The filing does however indicate some insight into the kind of problems and solutions that drone delivery networks face for complete market immersion. Amazon’s Senior Hardware Development Engineer Nicholas Gentry is listed on the patent as the inventor. Gentry also was behind a patent that would allow Amazon drones to talk with customers. With the beacon pod, one can assume that Amazon’s inventors envision the Seattle-based tech giant expanding its increasingly robotized distribution and delivery network.