The First Ship-to Person Delivery System Has Just Been Patented. Bring It To Me!

Martijn Graat
Martijn Graat

Ship-to-Person? Yes! Ship-to Person! Ship-to Address is so last century. And amazon has just patented a drone-enabled ship-to person delivery method. I first wrote about ship-to person replacing the ship-to address in my post Location Based Logistics – Why Forecast should have stayed, halfway through 2012. The premise is simple: why have a person stay at one location if the delivery method is so flexible that it doesn’t really matter where that person is.

Bring Me The Patent

The patent I am referring to is one that was published by the US Patent Office on April 30th: United States Patent Application 20150120094 – Unmanned Arial Delivery System.

This disclosure describes an unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV”) configured to autonomously deliver items of inventory to various destinations. The UAV may receive inventory information and a destination location and autonomously retrieve the inventory from a location within a materials handling facility, compute a route from the materials handling facility to a destination and travel to the destination to deliver the inventory.

But here is the most important part:

In addition to selecting a delivery method, the user may choose a delivery location 114. With the implementations described herein, a user now has the ability to choose “Bring It To Me” 114(A). With this option, the actual location of the user is determined and the UAV delivers the item to the current location of the user. The current location of the user may be based on, for example, a determined location of a portable device (e.g., mobile phone) associated with the user, the location of the network utilized by the user when placing the order, etc. For example, the user may identify their current location by allowing Global Positioning System (“GPS”) data to be provided by their mobile device. Alternatively, if the user is connected through a wireless network (e.g., cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite), the location of the network may be determined and used as the current location of the user.

When you order something online, you can simply select the option: Bring It To Me! It doesn’t get more ship-to person than that. You could be out on your boat, stuck in a traffic jam, or relaxing on a beach. How cool is that.

Amazon DronePatentDiagram

Have a Safe Flight and a Pleasant Landing

The main issue with drones at the moment is safety, and in most countries the air traffic regulators prohibit the use of drones. amazon has only recently gotten FAA approval to test drones. They need to be flown by a licensed operator (pilot) and always be in line of sight of that operator. Not feasible for any workable drone delivery system. But the patent is filled with measures taken to ensure a safe journey and safe delivery:

…information may be stored in a central location and/or dynamically shared between nearby UAVs, materials handling facilities, relay locations, a UAV management system and/or secure delivery locations. For example, other UAVs may provide information regarding weather (e.g., wind, snow, rain), landing conditions, traffic, etc.

…if the UAV’s route must cross over a road built for automobiles, the navigation of the route may be adjusted to minimize the intersection between the UAV’s path and the road

In still other implementations, the UAV may constantly monitor for humans or other animals that may be in the path or planned path of the UAV and modify the navigation of the UAV to avoid those humans or other animals.

When the UAV reaches the delivery location, it will identify an area at the delivery location where it can safely approach the ground, or another surface, and leave the inventory item, thereby completing the delivery. This may be done through assistance of a remote entity controller taking control of and/or providing control instructions to the UAV to assist the UAV in landing at the delivery location.

…a secure delivery location may be built so that it is taller than the average human or taller than the reach of an average human. In one implementation, the secure delivery location may be ten feet tall. In such an implementation, the storage compartments that are out of the reach of most humans may be utilized to store empty containers, parts for UAVs (e.g., batteries, propellers), computing components, UAVs, etc., and/or for use in repositioning containers within the secure delivery location

The Drones ARE Coming

When Amazon first announced it’s drone delivery program in 2013 it was met with both enthusiasm and skepticism. Since then they have put serious time and effort into developing a workable system. I was with the enthusiasts for sure then, and I still am now! The fact that the drones will track cell phones will be met with more skepticism, but I guess that if you don’t want to be tracked, and only want to reveal where you live, you should just stay at home and wait for your package to arrive some time between 1pm and 5pm, or maybe 6pm?

Having a patent is not the same as having a working system. We have yet to see the first package being delivered through a system like this, but I can’t wait for that time to come! Bring It To Me! 


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