This Is How Sky Pirates Are Born

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … really predictable intro for talking about Amazon’s giant floating warehouses.

In 2016, Amazon was granted a patent for what the company is calling “airborne fulfillment centers,” or AFCs. Using what would essentially be a massive zeppelin with a storage warehouse hanging beneath, the online shopping giant aims to make fulfilling orders even faster. A crew of human employees would man the warehouse with drones flying to and from the AFC, picking up packages before flying them to their destinations.

These AFCs wouldn’t carry everything to be found in Amazon’s online catalogue. Rather, the company states their floating warehouses would focus on high demand items. With the power of flight, an AFC could station itself above an area with “expected demand, and/or actual demand." Once stock has been depleted or demand in that area has died down, the AFC would move on, navigating to a new area or returning to some main processing center. With this technology, certain orders could be delivered much faster than currently possible — perhaps two-day delivery will soon become two-hour delivery!

That being said, don’t expect to look up and see a massive Amazon logo floating among the clouds anytime soon. Drone regulations are still extremely tight, especially in the United States, and most places demand drones remain within the line of sight of their pilot at all times. Additionally, Amazon has a habit of taking out patents that never see the light of day. This idea could change in the future, but at the moment, Amazon’s patent is more “plan for the best” than an actual business model.