Two of Amazon’s newly published patents cover some unorthodox features for delivery drones, including rotor arms that extend and bend as well as a winch for lowering packages to the ground on a tether.
One of the patents published today shows rotors attached to arms that can be folded into a compact position, and then extend themselves during flight. The movable arms could control the drone’s lift by orienting the rotors in different directions, according to the patent.
The other patent shows how packages carried by drones could be secured and lowered.
That patent calls for securing the package to a tether, and using a winch to lower it to the ground. A counterbalance system would keep your delivery from swaying excessively on its way down, presumably to your doorstep.
Daniel Buchmueller, a co-founder of Amazon Prime Air who is now director of engineering at Flatiron Health, is listed as a key inventor for the tether patent, which was filed in 2015, as well as for the adjustable drone, which was the subject of a 2014 patent application.
Three other inventors are in on the adjustable-drone patent: Gur Kimchi, vice president of Prime Air at Amazon and a former board member of Waze; Brian Beckman, principal software engineer at Prime Air; and Amir Navot, principal research scientist at Prime Air.
Amazon did not comment specifically on the patents issued today.
The drones shown in the illustrations look different from the drones that are being used for Amazon’s delivery tests in Britain. That shouldn’t be surprising: Amazon has said it’s “testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of operating environments.”
An earlier version of the autonomous vehicles showed packages doing a soft landing using a shipping label with a built-in parachute.