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Amazon wants to build drone repair stations on trains, container ships

Online retailer's latest patent a window into delivery ambitions

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Amazon is continually looking for ways to speed up the delivery process and has been piloting drones for at least two years. Now the online retailer has filed a patent to develop “mobile maintenance facilities” that would allow it to repair and recharge its fleet of drones on the fly.

As first reported by Business Insider, the patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 1 details the online retailer’s plan for what it is calling “unmanned aerial vehicles.” Mobile warehouse stations built atop trains, trucks and cargo ships will not only serve as repair stations, but also loading docks to fulfill orders.

“The intermodal vehicles may be coupled to locomotives, container ships, road tractors or other vehicles, and equipped with systems for loading one or more items onto the aerial vehicle, and for launching or retrieving the aerial vehicle while the intermodal vehicles are in motion,” reads the patent. “The areas where the demand is known or anticipated may be identified on any basis, including but not limited to past histories of purchases or deliveries to such areas, or events that are scheduled to occur in such areas.”

Though the plan may seem overly ambitious at a time when drones are still in their infancy, it offers a glimpse at Amazon’s line of thinking. Amazon has a reputation as a front-runner on robotics and automation, with impressively choreographed robots powering massive distribution centres and last year the company filed a patent for a massive flying warehouse from which those drones could be deployed.

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