Amazon drones to dock on streetlights

Amazon has just been granted a US patent that depicts drone docking stations as standalone structures that are constructed on top of streetlights, buildings and pylons.  

It has been known for sometime that the company plans to use drones to deliver packages, but up until now the gritty detail of their proposal has remained something of a mystery.

Amazon hopes that the docking stations will act both as package handling facilities and as a final destination where drones are able to recharge and refuel. The stations would incorporate solar panels, security cameras, and even Wi-Fi.

Example of what an Amazon drone will look like. They may be docking on top of  a streetlight near you.

The docking points would also be able to act as points of safety and shelter for drones during harsh weather.

The development of the streetlight safe havens in theory means that drones would be able to continuously hop from drop off point to drop off point, opening up, potentially, whole counties to the Amazon drone service.

It is also hoped that the docking stations will be able to offer navigational assistance, helping to guide the craft to the location of their drop-off.

The filing of the patent does not necessarily mean that the docking stations will get built, but it does allow us to see how Amazon are preparing for their future drone revolution, whenever it arrives.


You can learn more about intelligent street lighting at his year's LuxLive exhibition  in London on Wednesday 23 November and Thursday 24 November 2016. Entry is free if you preregister here.

Comments 4

James, that's complete BS that the poles are just sturdy enough to hold the designed luminary and any other topples the poles. They have many safety factors placed on top of them including wind loading. So no you're not correct. Now this idea may be ugly or not a good idea but please don't spread non factual information to rally support.

This is straight out of the Jet Stones comics and along side flying cars! The logistics of implementing a Drone zone and the security aspects make this an option that for sanity should not go past a patent application or even off the drawing boards!!!

I find it curious that the patent (No. 9,387,928) does not show an illustration of the landing pad on the pole top, at least as an option. Thus, I understand and agree with James Benya's concerns. Patent verbiage: "could also be installed on...telephone/electrical poles and other vertical structures (collectively poles)" is also curious in its absence from the CLAIMS which are the backbone of patents. The claims focus on the flight path logic, weather, physics and autonomous decision making on the part of the UAV. Very little on lighting, urban amenities and streetscape design. Perhaps this is in the next round of patent awards. The aesthetic curse of the cell tower may be meeting its match as James laments. Moving beyond patents however, in real design detailing and implementation I hope all concerned will create solutions with enduring visual appeal. The landing pad on top of the luminaire with the package chute directly underneath causes not only weight concerns but light distribution issues. Then there are thermals matters as well. But I expect and respect that Amazon and others are racing to secure IP placeholders and that there has been a steady stream of applications from players giant and small to outfit smart cities and the IoE. I have to wonder, however, if there is sufficient professional lighting representation on the Amazon (and other) teams that is fashioning the future. If not, there are quite a few lighting experts with a future mindset that could bring some fertile insights into the proceedings. Off I go to the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh Wisconsin, the largest aero event in the world. Funny thing, I always meet an interesting Brit and many other global visitors. Perhaps I'll find something new to bring to the discussion.

I can't believe that any city in their right mind would permit these eyesores. Just because the idea is patented does not mean it is genius or for that matter, any good. For the uninformed, street light poles are engineered for a certain amount of weight (including ice) and wind load, and we are presently engaged in a project where we need to fix poles where simply changing the luminaire added enough load to cause the mast arms to fail. I doubt that Amazon wants to replace all the poles. A more likely outcome is a new pole with fully integrated telecom, data and surveillance, with an optional landing pad on top. I have a hard time imagining one that is not uglier than sin.

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