Trains, Boats May Soon Be Part Of Amazon’s Business

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Amazon a patent earlier in August showing the company’s likely intention to develop vehicles, like trains, planes and boats, to dock its imminent drone fleet.

For delivery purposes, the vehicles would travel to areas where “demand is known or anticipated.” Amazon will try to predict what locations are expected to order more products based on the histories of purchases in a region. The intermodal vehicles would not only be stocked with various consumer items, but also with inspection equipment and replacement parts so drone repairs and examinations can be conducted. In all, the special facilities are intended to stock goods, and reserve, restore and deploy drones, while also potentially moving to an area with increased desire, if need be.

The pending license shows the extent to which the tech conglomerate is investing in drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to improve its supply chain and distribution processes, the crux of its services. In a separate patent officially recognized in April, Amazon detailed its intent to create airborne fulfillment centers (AFCs), which are essentially flying warehouses. Like the AFCs, the trains, planes, and boats in the most recent filing — which Business Insider first discovered — are designed to serve as a station for UAVs to receive maintenance, pickup cargo, and recharge.

The patent enumerates the kinds of “intermodal vehicles,” including “any type of seagoing vessel (e.g., container ships and/or cargo ships), [and] any type of road vehicle (e.g., cars, trucks, tractors and/or trailers, or the like.” Amazon also was sure to apply for legal protection when it comes to the application of “other forms or modes of transit (e.g., hyperloop systems having low-pressure or vacuum tubes and capsules transported therein) powered by any type or form of power source and/or prime mover.” (RELATED: Drone Delivery: Amazon Chose UK Over US Because Of Fewer Regulations)

The U.S. patent office has bestowed Amazon with other interesting patents, exhibiting that the tech giant wants to continue to spread into other industries, like in-house shopping. Not all patents are filed with a realistic objective, as some are just a means to box out competition, but Amazon’s latest could be a sign that it is looking to expand its already-progressing endeavors.

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