So just how will Amazon's delivery drones find you? The answer -- found in a recent patent -- sounds like science fiction.
With an option called "Bring It to Me," a drone could bring a package directly to a user by tracking the location of the user's smartphone or the Wi-Fi network the person used when he or she placed their order. If the user decides to run an errand or go for a walk in their neighborhood, utilizing the GPS data in the phone, the drone will follow the user to his or her next location.
As the company explains in its patent application:
"For example, the user may place an order for an item while at home, select to have the item delivered to their current location (delivery within 30 minutes of the order) and then leave to go to their friend's house, which is three blocks away from their home. As the ordered item is retrieved from inventory, the current location of the user's mobile device may be determined and the delivery location correspondingly updated. As such, the ordered item will be delivered to the user while the user is at their friend's house, or any other location."
The patent purports that the drones can make deliveries in 30 minutes. Additionally, the UAVs will be able to communicate with each other to figure out the best routes, sharing information about weather, environmental and traffic conditions, as well as the safest place to land, to let them change course if necessary.
The company also intends for the drones to be able to "constantly monitor for humans or other animals that may be in the path or planned path of the UAV and modify the navigation of the UAV to avoid" them. The UAV's will also be able to store the coordinates of previous landing locations for repeat trips. Furthermore, the company also detailed the technology the drones are using – cameras, infrared sensors, radar, sonar – to make the safest landings.
Right now, Amazon's UAVs are still in the prototype stage. The company finally received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration this spring after petitioning and criticizing regulators for their slow processing time.