Amazon Gets a Patent For Parachute Labels

Delivery by drone is a reality and Amazon has been pursuing better and faster methods of autonomous package delivery. The US Patent and Trademark Office just issued a patent to Amazon for a shipping label that has an embedded parachute to ensure soft landings for future deliveries.

The patent itself indicates the construction consisting of a set of cords and a harness and the parachute itself is concealed within the label. The label will come in various shapes and sizes depending upon the size of the package and is designed to “enable the workflow process of shipping and handling to remain substantially unchanged”. This means they are designed to look and be used just like a normal printed label.

The objective is to paradrop your next delivery and by the looks of the patent images, they plan to use it for everything from eggs to the kitchen sink. Long packages will employ multiple labels with parachutes which will then be monitored using the camera and other sensors on the drone itself to monitor descent.

The system will reduce the time taken per delivery since the drone will no longer have to land and take off. Coupled with other UAV delivery patents, Amazon may be looking at more advanced delivery techniques. With paradrops, the drone need not be a multi rotor design and the next patent may very well be a mini trajectory correction system for packages.

If they come to fruition we wonder how easy it will be to get your hands on the labels. Materials and manufacture should both be quite cheap — this has already been proven by the model rocket crowd, and to make the system viable for Amazon it would have to be put into widespread use which brings to bear an economy of scale. We want to slap them on the side of beer cans as an upgrade to the catapult fridge.

58 thoughts on “Amazon Gets a Patent For Parachute Labels

    1. There’s plenty of prior art for parachutes with labels, decals and other markings.

      Just as there’s plenty of prior art for making deliveries via parachute. For self contained parachute ‘packs’ for attaching to packages for delivery – which usually have a blank label on top where you write the ‘drop’ info for the aircrew.

      But this is the sort of nonsense you get when you employ ‘liberal arts’ graduates to carry out technical evaluations.

  1. What a dumb idea.
    We all know the cliché of the newspaper thrown by the newsboy, that lands on the roof.
    Soon you have to pick not only the newspaper from the roof, or out of bushes, but also your medicine and the groceries.
    Not to speak of deliveries landing on your bad neighbors lawn.

  2. i’m guessing this will also require strict observance of the position labels are to be applied at, in order to balance the load. having worked in manufacturing labelling, with conveyors moving ~10m/s it can be fairly tricky to precisely place labels, depending on the applicator.
    i wonder how they’ll accommodate heavy items with a small footprint (vs larger items, where multiple labelchutes can be applied)

    Is anyone else concerned as to what may occur if a parachute fails? the article says the drone will monitor, but not sure how they’ll catch up to, and stop a falling item
    i don’t much like the idea of a grocery/shopping delivery turning into “death from above”

    1. I think that it’s likely that the parachute will form part of the last 20-30ft of the descent as opposed to being punted out at altitude. This would save the time and effort it takes to safely land the drone and uncouple the parcel.

      1. +1 on chute failure. 100 feet will require the chute be already open at release. Folded take a lot of height to open. 32 feet per sec per sec. Would be easier and more reliable to lower it to ground on a line and then release it but now video recognition of bushes, trees, is needed…. and neighbor’s cat will be leaping at it…. dog ripping it apart, it’s an intruder.

        We won’t be seeing much success of this for another 10 yrs.

    2. “i wonder how they’ll accommodate heavy items with a small footprint”

      Answer: It’s Amazon, they package it themselves and can just put it in a large box.

  3. Gah. As if we hadn’t enough tiny bits of plastic foil clogging our oceans.

    No, I’m not a total luddite. But at a certain scale I think there is need for a certain sense of responsibility. Or in other terms “move fast and break things” is all OK if you are small. Once you become global scale, “break things” is something you should… avoid.

    Remember the flood of AOL CDs?

    1. They don’t care about pollution, littering, and terrorizing the songbirds, as long as they have paid the carbon tax.

      Someone please explain cap-and-trade, cause it sounds like a scam to me…
      They do realize that plants need carbon dioxide, right? Do they hate plants!? :P

      Fukushima disaster is still unfolding. They should fix the immediate problems before worrying about long-term rise of 1 degree.

      1. I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not. Please say not.
        At any rate we have enough money and people to focus on multiple problems at once and climate change is like an approaching asteroid; the longer you wait the harder it is to fix.

  4. There seem to be a number of problems with this concept, apart from the operation of the parachute itself. Firstly, what if the recipient is not at home? Will the delivery just sit in the open all day? Any passer-by could just walk off with it.

    Secondly what about delivering to a high-rise? In most of the world, large proportions of the population live in cities, where dwellings are nearly always in blocks of apartments.

    Thirdly what about delivering in a suburban area where all of the utilities are run from poles on the side-walk? Plus any trees on the side-walk and in gardens. Will the drone have pattern recognition software to plot a safe path through all these obstacles. Maybe they think they can look it up on Google Earth!

    Ever since Amazon announced this idea of delivery by drone I have been suspicious. This patent suggests that the team driving this are not living in the real world. Are they working out their ideas in some fanciful VR? LMAO!

    1. Stolen packages are a real concern.

      Delivery to a high rise, on the other hand, not so much. The intent of these systems is to reduce cost delivering to places where delivery is expensive due to geographic separation. That does not apply to a high-rise, where either a delivery employee can efficiently cover a building or where a truck backs up and offloads a couple large bins and/or a few pallets every day for in-house handling.

      Overhead wires and trees are certainly something that needs consideration, but I tend to doubt that they plan on dropping most packages from sufficient height for these things to be a major concern.

  5. Oh men, this has gone way to faar. Do people today have soooo little frustration tolerance that they can’t even wait like one or two days before they package get delivered? :-/
    Yes, medicine and stuff like this can be really urgent, but i don’t think you buy this on Amazon or anywhere on the internet. Here in Europe we have something called “pharmacy”, i suppose it’s not different in the US.
    All this drone-delivery nonsense opens a ton of new problems and stuff to deal with, all this money and energy that will be used to (try to) make this work could be used to solve much more urgent and important problems.

  6. We can mock at the silliness of parachuting packages all day long. But I have a hunch it’s not what the patent is really for. What the patent is really for is to give Amazon legal precedent in IP lawsuits. You and I both know what a parachute looks like that a skydiver deploys. What Amazon ends up really using may look nothing like the classic parachute dome depicted in the patent drawings.

  7. Whats up with USians being fine with packages left on the doormat? In EU package I didnt sign receiving is package not delivered = full refund.
    Things as cheap as $5 (smps transformer I received just yesterday) are send with delivery confirmation.

    1. Have you actually tried ordering from the “USian” Amazon site? Please tell me where you can specify delivery confirmation. Heck, you can’t even specify which carrier to use!
      I live in a large multi-unit building. UPS rings our intercom and then brings the packages to our door (5 star service!). US Postal Service rings our intercom and lets us know to come get our packages (3 stars, but okay). FedEx drops the packages off in the public entryway without bothering to alert us in any way (1 star and many complaint phone calls). Guess which one of these three services Amazon uses?

      They simply don’t care.

  8. That is all we need is a bunch of delivery drones buzzing around. My neighbor had one of those stupid things. It made a ton of noise. It was awesome when his expensive noise maker hit a tree and died.

      1. The drones used are probably way more than 1kg. I wonder how soon somebody will get injured or killed by such a thing falling from the sky (for whatever reason – technical defect, weather, shot down, hacked, …) and how much Amazon will have to pay – seems like in the US you can get millions of dollars for such accidents…

  9. “…and the next patent may very well be a mini trajectory correction system for packages.”

    Patent # [some made up number]: Cords that contract and relax under computer control.

  10. This is the dumbest idea I have ever read about. Parachutes have a good record but, they still sometimes fail to deploy or deploy improperly. (We lost a Navy Seal this past Memorial day weekend in a skydiving demonstration for example) So, with the very large number of expected consumer sales/deliveries there will be failures. This is a great way to injure, cripple or kill innocent folks just standing in their front yards. The liability for this would be prohibitive and just one “incident” could easily take Amazon under. I want to know what the people were drinking/smoking when this idea was raised at a meeting, and someone else said: “Hey, that’s a great idea!”

    1. As I said above:
      Maybe they can use it to deliver it to a designated redeliverer that way, a local landing field as it were.
      Might still be useful for small towns and such.

      1. Actually it would work for large cities too, let’s say you have a dedicated landing spot in Brooklyn, new-york, now you can quickly get a package there without traffic issues Then the local delivery guy picks it up and brings it to the intended address nearby.
        With a dedicated spot you avoid personal accidents and if it fails and breaks that can be logged and they can re-send it.

  11. Maybe the next idea is a parcel cannon, like the tee shirt cannons at ball games. Then the parcel floats down (in theory). How about an ICPM (inter continental parcel missile) for long distance delivery. Or you could use a mesh network where people throw the parcels from one person to another. The possibilities are endless :-)

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