Amazon’s Narrow Patent Application for Drone Delivery

It’s been the talk of the town since Amazon ‘leaked’ its drone-delivery service, but in reading the patent application for this invention, there is plenty of room to maneuver around Amazon.

The application is well-written as far as understanding the concept of drone delivery: “The final, or last mile delivery of physical items to a user specified location is traditionally accomplished using a human controlled truck, bicycle, cart, etc. For example, a user may order an item for delivery to their home. The item may be picked from a materials handling facility, packed and shipped to the customer for final delivery by a shipping carrier. The shipping carrier will load the item onto a truck that is driven by a human to the final delivery location and the human driver, or another human companion with the driver, will retrieve the item from the truck and complete the delivery to the destination. For example, the human may hand the item to a recipient, place the item on the user’s porch, store the item in a post office box, etc. […]

In some implementations, the UAV will communicate with other UAVs in the area to obtain information used in route planning. This 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. The UAV may utilize this information to plan the route from the source location to the delivery location and/or to modify the actual navigation of the route. In addition, in some implementations, the UAV may consider other environmental factors while navigating a route. For example, 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. For example, the UAV may alter its navigation such that the path of the UAV will intersect with the automobile road at an approximately perpendicular angle.”

The application is long and detailed. However, Claim 1 is a shopping list, meaning it is very narrow. If you take away one of the components and the invention will still work, you may potentially go around this patent. For example, if half of your fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles is not configured to aerially transport items (e.g. signal relay drones), it may be arguable that you are not infringing this patent. Equally quizzical is the “engage the item” portion of the drone’s journey. What if a person attaches the item to the drone? This may be a patent that causes some disturbance in the force. Or not. At least the patent application gives us a gander at what the front-end interface may look like.


Claim 1: A system for aerial delivery of items to a destination location, comprising:

  • a plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles, each of the plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles configured to aerially transport items;
  • an unmanned aerial vehicle management system, including:
  • a processor;
  • and a memory coupled to the processor and storing program instructions that when executed by the processor cause the processors to at least:
  • receive a request to deliver an item to a destination location;
  • and send to an unmanned aerial vehicle of the plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles, delivery parameters identifying a source location that includes the item and a destination location;
  • wherein the unmanned aerial vehicle, in response to receiving the delivery parameters, is further configured to at least:
  • navigate to the source location;
  • engage the item located at the source location;
  • navigate a navigation route to the destination location;
  • and disengage the item.



US Patent Application No: 20150120094

Filed (US Prov): Nov. 7, 2013

Published: April 30, 2015

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