Amazon received a new patent on Valentine’s Day – giving it one more option in its plans for a future that includes drone-based package delivery. The company received a patent for delivery via precision-guided parachute – dropped by a drone.

US Patent #9,567,081 was granted for the purpose of “Maneuvering a package following in-flight release from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).” That’s pretty much what it sounds like: An Amazon drone would carry a parachute-equipped package. When it got to the optimal point near the delivery spot, the goods would be ejected and a parachute would be deployed.

The drone would then monitor trajectory as the package descends, sending information that would control the parachute lines to guide the whole shebang to the desired landing spot.

The entire abstract, which sums up the much longer application, reads as follows:

“A package delivery system can be implemented to forcefully propel a package from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), while the UAV is in motion. The UAV can apply a force onto the package that alters its descent trajectory from a parabolic path to a vertical descent path. The package delivery system can apply the force onto the package in a number of different ways.

“For example, pneumatic actuators, electromagnets, spring coils, and parachutes can generate the force that establishes the vertical descent path of the package. Further, the package delivery system can also monitor the package during its vertical descent.

The package can be equipped with one or more control surfaces. Instructions can be transmitted from the UAV via an RF module that cause the one or more controls surfaces to alter the vertical descent path of the package to avoid obstructions or to regain a stable orientation.”

So what does all that look like? Well, something like this:

Delivery by drone - then by parachute

Will Amazon actually pursue this line or delivery – or is it just covering its bases? Tough to say, but there’s no doubt that guided parachute deliveries are a real thing. On a much larger scale, Canadian company MMIST uses guided parachute drops for military and aid applications.

And how will the package be ejected? Well, Amazon’s patent hedges its bets.

“…the launch mechanism includes at least one of a pneumatic actuator, a spring coil, or a drogue parachute to pull the package from the UAV.”

Included amidst multiple pages of diagrams are two flow charts indicating the proposed sequence of events:

Amazon Flow Chart Oneuav trajectory

Depending on the package size, it’s safe to assume that Amazon might want its parachute and control system back at some point. It’s also safe to assume (and is likely in the patent somewhere) that the parachute will include a tracking device of some sort. In fact, one would be necessary to ensure an accurate landing.