Remember when the humble shipping label had a single job, indicating the address of the parcel's recipient? Today, many have additional roles and responsibilities. For example, some now serve as multipurpose documents, with the address printed on one side and additional info—like the packing slip, return instructions, warranty, or even marketing material—printed on the back.
Now, Amazon.com Inc. has won a patent for a shipping label with a built-in parachute. Designed for drone deliveries, the parachute is capable of supporting the parcel as it drifts through the sky and helps ensure a soft landing.
The new system builds on Amazon's ongoing efforts to cut the time and cost of last-mile delivery by using unmanned aerial vehicles instead of trucks. This latest wrinkle—equipping parcels with parachutes—would allow the company to avoid some of the problems associated with drone deliveries, such as the presence of obstacles like trees and power lines, and the power requirements of descending and ascending at each location, Amazon's patent application states. The parachute concept follows other recent patents from Amazon, including blimp-like airborne fulfillment centers and networks of underground tunnels that avoid congested surface roads.
Amazon made its first drone delivery in Britain last December, when it dropped off an Amazon Fire streaming device and bag of popcorn to a residence in the countryside. In March, it made its first public U.S. drone delivery, when it dropped off a bottle of sunscreen at an Amazon-hosted conference in Palm Springs, Calif.