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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have recently granted Amazon a patent for a method to guide packages released from drones safely to the ground, with the help of parachutes, magnets or spring coils.
Up till now, the shipping giants had publicly released demo videos of their drones landing in yards to drop off packages. It’s important to note that the company has been testing for several years now different methods in order to pick the best one to deliver to customers in the future.
According to CNN, the patent suggests Amazon is considering keeping its drones high above customers’ homes, an approach that could be more efficient and safe. In the document, Amazon sources explained that landing a takes more time and energy than releasing a package from high in the sky. If Amazon’s drones don’t land in yards, this prevents potentially dangerous collisions between the drones and any people, pets or objects in a customer’s yard.
The patent also describes how Amazon’s drones would use magnets, parachutes or spring coils to release the delivery while in mid-flight. Once the package is released, the would then monitor the descending box to make sure it’s dropping properly onto the desired landing patch.
For example, wind is a factor that could potentially blow a package into a balcony, power line or tree. To solve this, Amazon’s drones would radio a message to an off-course package, instructing it to deploy a parachute, compressed air canister or landing flap and act according to the interference at hand.
It’s unclear when Amazon will launch delivery in the United States. The company’s current plan, which calls for automated drones flying without the direct supervision of a human, isn’t legal today.
Competitors such as Google have shown off similar plans, in which a package is dropped from the sky. Late last year, the delivery firm Flirtey completed an automated trial with 77 packages delivered from a 7-Eleven in Reno, Nevada. The flights were legal because Flirtey had a human supervise the flights. After extensive testing, Flirtey said it had found a way to drop a Slurpee frozen beverage without spilling a single sip.