Amazon’s Latest Patent: Drones that Charge Vehicles
Through the use of example systems, devices, and methods, Amazon’s newest patent describes a method to deliver energy using an unscrewed autonomous vehicle (UAV). The patent is intended for vehicles drawing energy from spinning flywheels, combusting hydrocarbons, drawing electric current from capacitors, and so forth. According to the patent, the vehicle could be configured to transport people or items. The system in the patent comprises three parts: a vehicle, a UAV, and a server. But it could include multiple vehicles, UAVs, and servers.
Beyond electric vehicles, the patent notes that the vehicle could include various forms of transportation including cars, trucks, bicycles, etc. The patent also mentions that the vehicle could be controlled by an operator or could operate semiautonomously or fully autonomously. In addition, the vehicle could include an energy source and a power-management module—referred to as the “energy source management module”—to monitor the amount of energy available from the energy source. As a result, it could determine whether there is a need for the vehicle to receive energy. This module also could be configured to monitor the amount of energy that is delivered to the vehicle during energy transfer.
The energy source may comprise one or more devices that provide energy so that vehicle processes may be performed utilizing electric, chemical, or mechanical devices. Those devices store energy for vehicle operation. An example could be rechargeable batteries that supply electric energy. The patent specifically talks about delivering gasoline with a vehicle containing a docking mechanism to transfer fuel from a UAV to a vehicle using fuel transfer connectors. The vehicle in the example could also generate environmental data that indicates, for example, the presence of a tree or another object or hazard. This data could be transferred to the UAV and used when docking with a vehicle.
The unscrewed autonomous vehicle is described as a mobile machine with no human operator aboard who can operate in one or more autonomous or semiautonomous modes. It could be configured to manage route selections, navigation, piloting, etc. Amazon’s patent mentions how the UAV could have limited altitude (1.86 miles) and range (34.2 miles) compared to human-crewed aircraft. It could also weigh less than 99 lb.
In the patent, it is interesting to see that they are also describing Amazon prime air delivery service when they say, “The UAV could be owned by or associated with merchants, customers, or commercial couriers. For example, a merchant could use the UAV to deliver items that are ordered by the customer.”
The UAV could use various authentication processes for protection and control to prevent or reduce energy theft. For example, the UAV could be protected from connecting with vehicles controlled by malicious users. Authentication processes also could be used to confirm whether energy was transferred or not. In addition, it will be possible to confirm the amount of energy that was transferred between the UAV and the vehicle. The UAV location data may be stored in a server to help determine which UAV should be instructed to transfer energy to the vehicle.
An additional feature for the UAV could be an energy storage device, which would be configured to store and release energy for transfer to the vehicle. The energy storage device could store energy in one or more forms including, but not limited to: electrical, magnetic, chemical, or mechanical.