Amazon, the same company which will gladly sell you everything from barbells to a 1.5-ton belt sander, has received a patent for technology allowing EVs to be recharged by drone.
Environmental tech blog GreenTechMedia first noticed the filing, issued on Oct. 3 of this year. Patent number 9,778,653 is described as an “uncrewed autonomous vehicle” and is depicted in the filing as a six-rotor drone peppered with electrical contacts and docking connectors.
In a document that may simply be securing a patent for technology which hasn’t been invented yet, a retractable drone-docking mechanism is shown on top of a car extending to meet the drone, locking it in place with two clamps. Once enough juice is transferred to the EV batteries, the patent describes the drone unlocking itself from the vehicle and flying away.
There are a litany of issues with this concept, not the least of which is the inability of current battery technology to pack enough juice in a small drone to charge an EV in any meaningful amount.
The filing goes on to explain that the car itself could send an “energy request” to the drone network once it realizes the on-board batteries do not have enough range to make it to the intended destination.
Wording of the patent leaves the door open for this technology to be used on the fly and not restricted to recharging the nation’s EV fleet, with the filing referencing many other type of electric transportation such as bicycles and boats. Page 13 of the filing suggests the drone may have a range of about 35 miles, weigh about 2 pounds, and have a maximum altitude of nearly 2 miles.
The drone’s estimated weight should be cause for pause, given present-day battery technology. Such a diminutive source of electrons attempting to recharge an EV would be like charging one’s car with their laptop which might provide enough power for only the next 30 feet or 30 seconds of travel. There is also the matter of charging speed, as current fast-chargers are the size of large refrigerators.
Amazon’s patent has the potential to solve persistent question marks in the EV market, namely range anxiety and charging infrastructure. Charging points in urban areas have popped up like umbrellas during a rainstorm but rural connectivity remains lacking in many areas. Buried in the patent are suggestions that the drone could also be used for ferrying packages, something Amazon has longed to do for many years.
The thought of fully charged unmanned drone zipping about the sky puts this author slightly on edge, especially with Amazon’s patent filled with words like “target” and “execute.” I simply hope this future technology will transfer electricity more smoothly than when Harrison Ford tried to refuel his plane mid-flight in Air Force One.
The patent, all 32 pages of it, can be found here.