Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared how Amazon has secured a patent for its idea of airship blimp stocked with products and drones? That idea seemed pretty far-fetched, even with today's technology.
Well, news of Amazon's latest granted patent is on that same "way out-there" level and takes aim at the complete opposite of the physical spectrum — the subterranean.
GeekWire first reported on Jan. 4 that the e-commerce giant has patented a system for delivering goods with a network of underground tunnels. Amazon's 33-page patent application outlines how a dedicated network of tunnels could use conveyor belts, rails or pneumatic tubes to transport packages. The system aims to be especially of use for rail stations, airports, locker storage sites, as well as general customers. The patent was originally filed in May of 2014, but wasn't granted and published until this past Nov. 29.
The goal of the Amazon tunnel system appears to be an overall avoidance of transportation congestion experienced by traditional methods.
"The systems and methods of the present disclosure thus enable the delivery of items, e.g., goods of any kind or sort, in a powered and controlled manner between a source and a destination at a variety of speeds without any interaction, or with minimal interaction, with traditional transportation networks, and with minimal to no human operators," says the Amazon patent.
Amazon isn't the first company to explore going underground for delivery. As Geekwire notes, British company Mole Solutions has proposed a similar idea of delivery pipelines and even set up a demonstration track for testing.
And then there's the Hyperloop concept, spearheaded by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, which involves a network of vacuum tubes that would allow levitating capsules to travel at near-supersonic speeds. The Hyperloop, outlined by Musk three and a half years ago, was proposed as an above-ground transit system, but Musk hinted in a couple of December Tweets that he's seriously considering pursuing an underground tunnel system.
Like with the Amazon Airborne Fulfillment Center, the company's proposed subterranean network may never come to fruition, but it is very clear that Amazon is thinking way outside the box (no pun intended) and exploring every possibility to get products to customers as fast as possible.
Here's a couple images from the Amazon patent showing how the tunnel system would work and how it would create an overall underground supply chain.