Everything We Know About Amazon Drone Delivery

By Fool.com

Amazon.com wants to use drones to deliver to its customers.

The idea at first seemed ridiculous, and even as it comes closer to reality, on many levels it still does. Yet the online retailer really is working to bring about the ability to have an unmanned ship deliver your order.

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In addition to getting the Federal Aviation Administration to issue it an "experimental airworthiness certificate" that will allow the retailer to test its drones outdoors in preparation for delivery operations, the company has also filed a patent showing how the process will work. It's all very technical -- and still more than a little theoretical -- but the retail giant has a plan, and it could someday happen.

Same-day, or even same-hour, drone delivery may not be here yet. But it's getting closer, and Amazon seems likely to ultimately pull it off.

An Amazon video showing how its drones would work. Source: Amazon.com.

What Amazon is doingAmazon has filed a United States patent application with the following description in the abstract:

That's a very rough outline that says little more than what a drone does in broad terms. but the company drills down into functionality as the document continues. One of the more interesting ideas is that the drones won't be singular, but more a community of UAVs working together.

The drones will work together to come up with the best way to deliver your package. The patent application said they will also be able to transmit their location to let customers know when the drone will be arriving.

Amazon addressed safety concerns over the drone, explaining that "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." Those safety efforts continue once the drone arrives at its location:

The parent application sets an overall operating plan for the drones, covering a variety of contingencies. It's clear that Amazon is using the patent application to show the FAA -- and anyone else with safety concerns -- that the unmanned flying devices are safe.

The drone may be able to find youOne of the more interesting parts of the patent application was the area that explained how the drones would not just be able to deliver to an address. They may also be able to use GPS to track down a customer through his or her smartphone. The feature, dubbed "Bring It to Me" in the patent application, allows the drone to track the customer down even when moving:

Aside from the creepy Terminatorimages of robots that track you down no matter where you hide, that functionality seems especially useful.

Amazon has a planIt's still hard to picture that drones will be a reality anytime soon, but Amazon clearly thinks otherwise. The incredibly detailed patent application covers a huge variety of delivery scenarios and makes the impossible seem, if not ordinary, at least less special, when it's broken into each tiny step required.

Drones may not be coming tomorrow, but reading this patent application makes it feel as if they're coming soon -- and they might be able to track you down wherever you are.

The article Everything We Know About Amazon Drone Delivery originally appeared on Fool.com.

Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. He welcomes drone delivery but worries about sentient computers taking over. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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