Amazon is looking into technology that would let it drop packages from its delivery drones to customer’s houses using parachutes.
The internet retail giant has filed a patent for a system that would let parcels fall to the ground slowly with their descent directed by the drone.
Under the proposals, the drone will propel the package to the ground using a burst of force from a system that includes electromagnets and spring coils.
After it has released the package, the drone will continue to monitor its descent to prevent customers’ orders, which could contain fragile objects such as electronics or ornaments, from landing on a tree or rooftop.
If it looks like the package is going awry the drone will be able to take remedial measures such as a burst of compressed air or release of a sail to steer its safe landing.
The plan steps up the company’s efforts to fill the skies with its autonomous Prime Air drones by removing the fear that the vehicles could be stolen or get stuck on landing.
While the Civil Aviation Authority gave Amazon permission to conduct the trial, the biggest factor standing between the company and drone deliveries is regulation. At the moment it is illegal to fly a drone beyond the pilot’s line of sight and within 50 metres of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure.
Dropping packages from a height of 50 metres could overcome this problem, but the safety concerns of injuring passersby remain.
Amazon conducted its first drone delivery to a house at the end of last year, successfully transporting a bad of popcorn and Amazon Fire TV from a fulfillment centre to a house in Cambridge. The delivery took 13 minutes, about half the time the drones are able to fly for.
The technology can deliver parcels that weigh up to 2.27kg for distances of up to 10 miles. Amazon plans to conduct dozens more trials in the coming months.