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Amazon Snags Another Patent to Ease Drone Deliveries

May 31, 2017, 12:01 PM UTC

In case you hadn’t noticed, e-commerce giant Amazon is obsessed with delivering products to you any way it can. And this week, it received a patent from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that, in theory, would enable packages to parachute to your doorstep.

The patent, first spotted by Geekwire, calls for package labels to bundle up their own parachutes, which would presumably deliver the goods safely without harming either the contents or anything (or anyone) on the ground.

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The patent says the new system can include adhesive backing, cords, a parachute, and a breakaway cover.

Amazon (AMZN) is not resting on its laurels. In March, it showed off its commercial delivery drone at the SXSW conference in Austin, although it did not demonstrate the drone in flight.

Drone delivery technology is marching on with UPS, Walmart (WMT), and Google (GOOGL), among other companies, also working on delivery drones. Thus far, Federal Aviation Administration regulations require that drones be flown within sight of their (human) operators, which limits their range.

Related: Amazon Drone Delivers Sunscreen in Demo

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), introduced legislation that would let state and local authorities regulate the use of drones in their jurisdictions. Scatter shot regulations could also impede the use of drone delivery.

Another limitation: So far, the most advanced batteries can only drive a drone for about 30 minutes without a recharge.

Related: Walmart Explores Blockchain for Drone Delivery

For Amazon and other players, commercial drone delivery remains in process. In February, the company got a related patent to enable a flying drone to eject a package using “pneumatic actuators, electromagnets, spring coils, and parachutes [to] generate the force that establishes the vertical descent path of the package,” according to the patent filing published Tuesday.

Earlier this year, market research firm Gartner (IT) said it doesn’t expect commercial drone delivery to become a major business in the foreseeable future.