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Drone home: How Amazon’s delivery drones could sell you services

Hot off the back of Amazon’s recent filed patent for beehive-like drone depots which would be used to dispatch deliveries, the retail giant has announced that the drones could analyse customers’ homes and try and sell them services and products based on collected data from onboard cameras.

Trials have already begun for the ambitious plans of a fleet of delivery drones, known as ‘Prime Air’ service, with small products flown to customers in under 30 minutes.

And Amazon hopes to collect and use the data to its advantage, filing a patent that explains how the online-retail giant hopes “captured data may be received by a computer system and properties about a destination for the delivery may be identified by analysing the data. A recommendation may be generated based at least in part on the identified properties”.

Explaining in more detail, Amazon relates how a drone could assist a customer if the onboard camera noticed that the client’s roof needed fixing:

“For example, the one or more service provider computers may analyse the data and identify that the roof of the location is in disrepair and in need of service. Subsequently, the one or more service provider computers may generate and provide a recommendation to the customer informing them of the identified property and offering an item or service that is appropriate for the identified property (e.g., a roof repair service recommendation).”

The patent explains how customers could receive these recommendations in a variety of ways, such as email, text or Amazon notification.

However, privacy laws would mean that the service would be opt-in, with the patent explaining it would only capture and analyse this data with customer consent.

Amazon’s delivery drone dream are still a long way from commercial reality, with testing in the UK and early trials suggesting it will be years before Prime Air service becomes commercially viable.

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Blog: Toby Cruse: Amazon’s ‘Death Star’ to Take the Skies

Currently, if you want a package delivered from the Amazon’s airborne courier system in the UK, you need to have a large garden live near an Amazon delivery depot and want a very light package, but that’s looking to change.

The service, known as Prime Air, made its first successful touchdown in December, taking just 13 minutes between placing the order and arriving in the user’s back garden just outside of Cambridge.

While the online commercial giant has barely left the ground yet, plans have already been put forward to take the company to greater heights.

Discovered by CB Insight’s Zoe Leavitt, the new patents reveal ‘airborne warehouses’ designed to hang in the sky at 45,000 ft.

Described by Leavitt as Amazon’s very own “Death Star,” the patents also seemingly show designs of multi-purpose docking stations that could be built onto lamp posts, as well as buildings and other structures.

Using communication links known as a ‘Mesh Network,’ the drones will be able to transmit data between each other to send alerts of their environments.

Factors from how clear the weather is to the distance of a customer are hoped to be tackled by these airships, or “airborne fulfilment centres,” which would be able to travel to calmer climates as well as to hotspots where the service is in more greater demand.

The UK laws on drone piloting are continuing to evolve as they become more and more popular, but they currently do not allow for flying over or within 150m of congested areas, or within 50m of any vessel, structure or vehicle not controlled by the pilot.

However, even with these laws the UK is considered much more lenient than many countries. American drone users, for example, required a licence and a special waiver from the Federal Aviation Authority until August last year.

So far the Prime Air sounds very compelling for the 2 customers close enough to an Amazon warehouse to be viable, especially since the service doesn’t cost any more than the customers are already paying, but whether or not your orders are going to be sent to you gift-wrapped from the clouds in the near future is still up in the air.