Amazon™ Plans to Build Drone-Ports

✓ In Brief
Amazon has designed a fully automated maintenance center (a drone-port) for its drone fleet. This will help Amazon optimize its drone delivery system

Amazon™ is eagerly trying to cap the market when it comes to innovation in the field of drones. Undoubtedly, the drones are going to be the next big thing in the market.

Drones, popularly called unmanned aerial vehicles, can effortlessly accomplish many tasks like oil, gas, and mineral exploration, aerial photography of events (such as a football game), and transporting of couriers and parcels. For example, the drones can work as a substitute to miners. Accordingly, mining agencies may, in future, employ drones for mining work. Further, the drones may also work as security devices, such as in case of remote operations.



A recent patent from Amazon discloses a fully automated maintenance station for a fleet of drones. The automated maintenance station would serve as a Drone-Port (like an airport) along with an onsite service station. The onsite service station will include facilities such as test stations, diagnostic stations, inventory area, repairing area, and loading area. Further, the drones may be evaluated at these onsite service stations before they are sent over for a flight. This ensures that faulty drones are not used for deliveries. Additionally, the drones may undergo an evaluation once the they have successfully completed a job assigned to them (e.g. delivering a pizza at a school). The whole evaluation will require limited to no human resources.

Amazon Prime Air Delivery Loading Site
Figure 1 Amazon Prime Air Delivery Loading Site


Amazon Prime Air drone holding a package
Figure 2 Amazon Prime Air drone holding a package

In an exemplary scenario, consider a drone that has been assigned a duty to deliver a package to a customer and then return back to a home base (the automated maintenance station). Further, after returning, the drone will land on a master conveyer that is installed at the onsite service station. The master conveyer will move the drone from one test station to another. Accordingly, while moving through each test station, the drone will go through a specific test at various test stations. For example, one test station may perform tests related to navigation system of drones. Another test station may perform tests related to propulsion system of drones. Similarly, there may be ‘N’ number of test stations that perform tests on drones related to communication, avionics, and package delivery.

Further, if at any of the test stations, the drones fails a test, the drone will be removed from the master conveyer by a robotic arm and sent to an area of the onsite service station that is dedicated to repairs. On the other hand, if the drone passes all the tests at all the test stations, then the drone is moved to a package loading station. At the package loading station, the drone is automatically loaded with a new package and given the delivery instructions for executing delivery of the new package.


The automated maintenance station also includes a structural test station, which includes specialized scanners. These scanners are designed to detect structural irregularities associated with the body, frame, and wings of the UAV. These scanners will scan all sides of the drone (e.g. top, bottom, front, back, right side, and left side). Further, the scanners may include any combination of sensors, such as, laser scanners, thermographic scanners, X-ray scanners, and structured light scanners. In any event, the scanners will search for structural irregularities by scanning the body, frame, wings, propellers, and legs. After scanning, the scanners will compare the scans to certain scan criteria, which may include threshold values. For example, the scanner may scan the drone for hairline fracture that meets some criteria (e.g. width, length, depth, and shape). Further, the scanned data may be shared with an onsite management service for further analysis.


Isn’t the idea astonishing? Well, if you feel it is, and drones are something that fascinates you, let us know if you too are waiting to see drones delivering products at your home.

Patent Information
Publication Number: US9815633
Patent Title: Automated fulfillment of unmanned aerial vehicles
Publication date: 14 Nov 2017
Filing date: 19 Sep 2016
Inventors: Lauren Marie Kisser; Armando Medina Romero
Original Assignee: Amazon Technologies, Inc.