Weekly Patent Highlight: Multi-Level Fullfillment

Amazon continues to improve its patent strategy towards drone delivery.  Their latest issued patent, U.S. Patent No. 9,777,502 directed to “Multi-level fulfillment center for unmanned aerial vehicles.”  A multi-level fulfillment center is designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of UAVs in densely populated areas. Unlike traditional fulfillment centers, the ML fulfillment centers may include many levels (i.e., stories, floors, etc.) as permitted under zoning regulations for respective areas. The fulfillment center may have one or more landing locations and one or more deployment locations to accommodate UAVs, which may delivery at least some of the items from the fulfillment center to locations associated with customers.  The multi-level fulfillment center supports a large volume of UAVs that continually pick up deliveries from the fulfillment center and then deploy toward a destination for the particular delivery. The fulfillment center may include services to charge batteries of the UAVs, inspect and/or service the UAVs, and/or perform other operations for the UAVs between flights.

Figure 1A is an example of a fulfillment center.  (They may want to hire an architect.)  (and if I could upload images you would see what I mean…)

Claim 1 is lengthy:

1. A multi-level fulfillment center configured to support distribution of items by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the multi-level fulfillment center comprising: an exterior shell to secure internal operations of the multi-level fulfillment center; UAV platforms to support landings and takeoffs of the UAVs, the UAV platforms coupled to the exterior shell; apertures located in the exterior shell at different altitudes to provide at least access to the UAVs located on the UAV platforms, wherein a first aperture provides access to an authenticated UAV on a first UAV platform located proximate to the first aperture, the authenticated UAV to be readied for a next flight while on the first UAV platform to deliver an item from the multi-level fulfillment center to a destination associated with a customer; aperture doors to selectively close the apertures, wherein a first door is configured to secure the first aperture in a closed position at least when the first UAV platform is not occupied by the authenticated UAV; a controller to authenticate the UAVs and control the aperture doors, wherein the controller causes a second door to open based at least in part on a determination that an incoming UAV being received at a second UAV platform is authorized to access the multi-level fulfillment center; a receiving area within the exterior shell to receive freight that includes the item and other items available for consumption by customers; and a storage area within the exterior shell to organize and store the item and the other items prior to distribution to customers by the UAVs.

Amazon is clearly dedicated to drone delivery and protecting its rights in the arena.  Amazon currently has 19 patent patents dedicated to drones.  It’s exciting to see what they are protecting and watch their portfolio is heading.

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