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Amazon Patents Way To Turn Lampposts, Church Steeples Into Drone Perches (consumerist.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Consumerist: Amazon has received a patent that shows what drones may be doing when they're not flying throughout the sky delivering packages: sitting on lampposts and church steeples. "Amazon was recently awarded a patent for docking and recharging stations that would be built on tall, existing structures like lampposts, cell towers, or church steeples," reports The Consumerist. "Once the drone is done making a delivery, it would be able to land on the station, recharge and refuel, as well as pick up additional packages." A "central control system" would then be able to control each docking station and connect the docked drone(s) with a local or regional packaged handling center or central facility. Based on weather or package data, the drones may be commanded accordingly. The patent says the system will not only provide directions based to the drone, but will have the ability to redirect the unmanned aerial vehicle based on the most favorable conditions, such as a route with less wind. The patent describes a system in which the drone delivers a package to the platform that then moves the item via a "vacuum tube, dumbwaiter, elevator, or conveyor to the ground level." From there, the package could be transferred to an Amazon Locker or a local delivery person. The docking stations could also act as cell towers that "provide local free or fee-based Wi-Fi services. This can enable cities to provide free Wi-Fi in public parks, buildings, and other public areas without bearing the burden of installing some, or all, of the necessary infrastructure."
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Amazon Patents Way To Turn Lampposts, Church Steeples Into Drone Perches

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @07:12PM (#52544603)
    they are
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unbelievably ass-ugly, and i doubt many cities would relax their building codes for them.

    • Unbelievably ass-ugly, and i doubt many cities would relax their building codes for them.

      Give the cities access to the idle cameras and cities would welcome them with open arms... free surveillance infrastructure!

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Give the cities access to the idle cameras and cities would welcome them with open arms... free surveillance infrastructure!

        These days a lot of cities have enough problems keeping the roads patched and streetlights in proper repair. Don't know about where you live, but here in Southern Ontario that's pretty much the norm.

    • Besides, who exactly lives anywhere near a "church steeple"? Maybe they're more prominent in other areas of the country? I've seen plenty of churches, but they rarely have steeples near where I live. Also, here in the US, we have "streetlights", not "lampposts". Curious choice of wording for potential perches.

  • The Goodfeathers [wikia.com] are suing for prior art.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How can they grant a monopoly to a single entity over such an obvious and necessary infrastructure item? What are all the other companies supposed to do, pay fees to amazon? Pay orders of magnitude more money to build on cell tower land or something? How can the government justify this action?
    This is a complete failure of the patent system, except for one thing, the entire patent system is a complete failure from the start.

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      I wasn't even aware this was a patent-able idea, I was talking about it here on slashdot 2 years ago... would that count as prior art?

      • The idea is obvious and, even if it weren't, if the patent system is doing it's job at all it's not patentable - ideas are specifically ineligible for patents.

        A specific mechanism though - docking connector, communication architecture, or whatever, IS patentable. And somebody else could design a different "dock" to make a complete end-run around Amazon.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      I've looked at the patent, Amazon have been smart and gone for every possible variation, solar panels, fossil-fuel refueling, cctv systems. So know if anyone does anything fancy with a lamppost they will have to pay Amazon for the pleasure. I personally think solar panels on lampposts is a pretty obvious idea to the point that I checked to see if they had patented it, they have.

  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @07:43PM (#52544695)

    So apparently the US Patent Office will now grant a patent for a transcript of a late night undergrad bull session where at least 2 of the participants are high...

    That seems the most likely source of this patent, to me. I think the USPTO has inverted the obviousness clause: the very most obvious of business method patents require and obviously deserve to be granted, or how can US businesses continue to get richer?

    "Our drones are really short range. How do we use them to deliver stuff everywhere?"

    "Drone docks everywhere!"

    "Ok. So we put drone docks everywhere. How do we keep people from stealing or vandalizing them?"

    "They fly, right?

    "Yes."

    "So like.... like.... uhmmmm.... what was I saying.... this is really good weed..... flying... oh yeah, put 'em high up!"

    "Like on top of lamp posts and church steeples?"

    "Yeah!"

    "And make 'em deliver roaches!"

    "Yeah!"

    Thankfully, Amazon figured out that drones can have wings, and eliminated the problem entirely. So they got a patent granted for some stoner's idea. They'll never use it.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Sky roaches might be the best description of delivery drones. Is anyone what so ever waking up to the idea of the number of drones required to achieve this. We are talking millions of drones, in any city tens of thousands of drones flying at the same time. If you have native birds don't expect them to last. For people who live in any kind of proximity to dispatch locations, well, I hope you enjoy the noise and wearing hardhats and armoured safety googles and possibly a armoured collar (statistics means tha

      • Bingo. For example two years ago I drove for UPS during the Christmas rush. At the peak the Delivery center (one of three servicing the Salt Lake City Metro center) was pushing 80,000 packages a day. Two of those three centers were at the same location a third at another, that's about 240,000 a day at peak using roughly 300 package cars. A large volume of the volume was Amazon. Call it 100k, 300 trucks versus 100,000 drone flights a day leaving from the central sort and distro facility. And those pack
    • The obviousness clause has been moot since around patent #4,000,000.

      Autonomously recharging quadcopters was the first obvious improvement to make to quadcopters, ever. 10 minute flight times, who wouldn't think about recharging that without human intervention? Now, when you're flying through a city and you've got about 350B in market cap backing you, of course you're going to lease whatever space you think looks attractive - you've got the clout to get past any and all zoning boards, city councils, feder

  • I can only support this idea if the drones are redesigned to look like gargoyles - now, that would be cool!

  • Church Steeples? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sls1j ( 580823 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @08:11PM (#52544789) Homepage
    They want their drones struck by lightening?
    • Interestingly all my local churches already have mobile phone towers on them. I wonder how well drones will work when flying that close to a radiation source.

    • Sure, and that is how they achieve pre-order delivery. Set the product to ship during the next lightning storm, land drone on steeple, lightning strikes charging capacitors with 1.21 gigawatts, drone then achieves 88 mph speed and presto deliver the package an hour before it is ordered.
  • by pla ( 258480 )
    ...Time to patent a way to make a steeple/pole/tower (that I own, on private property) "look" like a drone recharging station, that actually fries those fuckers.

    Make no mistake, I have nothing against drones, as a concept; but fuck me if I'll give Amazon a free charge to help them expand Prime.
  • Ricochet! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @09:08PM (#52545019) Journal

    Finally, a use for the abandoned Metricom Ricochet [wikipedia.org] equipment on the top of street lights!

  • Instead of tying perching drones to fixed recharging stations, why couldn't idle drones just roost on a roof or other sunny spot, spread solar wings, and recharge while waiting for the next assignment? During bad weather, they could hide under eaves or other protected places.

    The lightning problem means that church steeples are not particularly safe places for drones to wait out weather in any case.

    • Solar recharging.... with solar panels you carry with you while flying.... I think one guy has managed to barely circumnavigate the globe in a vehicle that did this, with tremendous planning and ground logistical support and repairs en-route on a vehicle purpose built from the ground up. In other words: an AC power outlet is something you don't have to carry with you (zero weight), and it delivers power as fast as you can possibly use it - even the DC conversion and battery protection circuits can live in

    • Because solar power has *horrible* energy density. Lets say you've got relatively large 1m^2 "wings" operating at a fairly high 20% efficiency. That'll get you about 200watts, at noon on the equator. Probably under 100W in most places. That's not enough power to travel far, especially not when hauling around a square meter of solar panels.

      You can do solar drones, but they're typically ultralight fixed-wing gliders designed to consume as little power as possible to maintain altitude. Nimble but power-hu

      • "Because solar power has *horrible* energy density."

        That's why you can't fly with solar panels, but how about for topping up the charge between jobs?

        • Doesn't really solve the problem - A high end model airplane battery might hold 150Wh, and you might get 15-30 minutes of flight out of it. So, an hour and a half of charging for 15 minutes of flight. Except it's almost certainly much worse than that because 'copters are far less efficient than airplanes, plus you're hauling around those solar panels in addition to the packages you're delivering. Bottom line, and such solar power drone is going to spend almost all of its time perched, and only a few per

    • Instead of tying perching drones to fixed recharging stations, why couldn't idle drones just roost on a roof or other sunny spot, spread solar wings, and recharge while waiting for the next assignment? During bad weather, they could hide under eaves or other protected places.

      Solar panels would reduce the usable payload.

      Expensive drones need to be earning a return on the investment by delivering packages, not sitting around waiting to recharge.

      Cheap mains electricity is available 24/7 in the vast majority of areas where package delivery drones would operate.

  • I'm worried - that could really change the balance of power in Narnia.

  • I'd rent them space for a drone recharging station/rest stop especially if it got me preferred delivery or a discount on delivery. I'm already a prime member and get more than my monies worth in Prime video and discounted shipping, not to mention the kindle library and streaming music. I hate coming of like a shill but I like amazon and my family and I shop a lot online. I buy paperback books by the boatload from amazon for ridiculously low prices and then share them with friends or donate them to the loca

    • I'd rent them space for a drone recharging station/rest stop especially if it got me preferred delivery or a discount on delivery.

      This was one of my first thoughts when I heard they were exploring drone-based delivery. A drone perch would make delivered packages less visible and less accessible to anyone who might wish to intercept them, compared to just dropping them on the porch.

  • Clearly an idea by someone who has no clue about religious sensitivities, congregations, and the like.

    • Clearly an idea by someone who has no clue about religious sensitivities, congregations, and the like.

      Would those be the delicate religious sensitivities that already have huge numbers of congregations helping to fund their tax-free social club by renting out space for cell phone antenna clusters? Those religious sensitivities? Please.

  • I know this is an aggregation site and that slashdot does not have control. However, the title is incorrect. Amazon has not 'patented' "Way[s] To Turn Lampposts, Church Steeples Into Drone Perches".. at least based on the linked granted patent. Read the numbered claims, which are found at the end of the document. In particular, check out independent claims 1, 9 and 18 which are the legally enforceable part of the granted patent. These claims recite a method that includes using docking stations for purpos
  • Birds have prior art.
  • So a church is going to give away its tax free status to rent roof space for profits? Not going to happen. Plus, church steeples are a work of art no way they are going to allow a charging system to muck it up.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @11:24AM (#52547791) Journal
    Of course they'll be outfitted with cameras and microphones and people would get used to having them around, how convenient for the NSA/CIA/FBI, and the soon-to-be formed Thought Police.

    Fuck off, Amazon.
  • Great, now we're going to have wars over "on a lamppost" patents.

  • That drones would be cheaper than cars for deliveries at least make sense. Not anymore. Cars have always won based on their independence -- aside from roads, they require very little infrastructure, and that infrastructure requires very little maintenance, and it's all mobile and weather-proof. But these lamppost upgrades are hugely expensive to install, maintain, co-ordinate. Elevators, perches, chargers, ground-level co-ordination, weather-specific calibration. So if it rains for three days, that's

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