First Drones, now a Flying Warehouse

Mobile Distribution Centers

When I first heard of Amazon delivery drones, I assumed they would have to fly bi-directionally from a stationary, land-based distribution center. Lots of logistical issues to overcome with that concept, I thought.

Now I learn that Amazon has been really creative; and, that I was totally wrong in my conception. Amazon’s idea: why not use a  mobile-based distribution center that can be moved anywhere – on-demand?

This staggering novel concept completely turns the notion of delivery system models upside down; and, it re-imagines what supply chains in the future could look like.


Amazon was awarded a patent in April 2016 for the concept (diagram above) of deploying a mobile-based flying warehouse or an “airborne fulfillment center” (AFC). This information was recently uncovered and distributed by CNBC last week.

Imagine a customer order triggering a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, to fly down from a high-flying AFC to fulfill immediately their order. Then, not to waste any space or opportunity, one interesting aspect of the patent is that the airship itself could be used as a giant advertising board, alerting customers of special items on-board. Imagine if the Goodyear Blimp could deliver tires directly to your car or home.

Conceptual Usage

CNBC reported on an example of a sporting event where specific team items could be pre-loaded in the AFC allowing pertinent items to be ordered and delivered to consumers within minutes, perhaps directly to one’s seat in the stands.

How about envisioning a scenario where the Kansas City Royals win the MLB American League Championship game (again) and celebratory league championship t-shirts can be delivered to ecstatic fans minutes after the game is over. Crazy? Yes! Unbelievable? No, not anymore!

This AFC idea takes the concept of a “pop-up” temporary store to a whole new (and higher) level.

The realization of such a distribution/delivery concept would be a game-changer to many supply chains, especially retail related.

Here are a few question to consider:

  • How could your company utilize airborne fulfillment centers?
  • Who will do it first? You or your competition?


Author: HorneMobile

World Traveler. Novelist with a day job. SME on supply chain solutions. SME on supply chain mobility. SME on Enterprise ERP solutions.

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