Amazon dreams of blimps for flying warehouses

Amazon may one day use blimps stocked with drones to get packages to customers even faster.

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patent for what Amazon calls an "aerial fulfillment center" includes drawings of how stuff you buy would be warehoused in the air, then delivered to a home by a drone dropped from the blimp.

A shuttle would dock in the air to return the drones, ferry in workers, and resupply the warehouse.

"This whole idea of having drones come down through air traffic lanes, I can't see how the FAA would ever approve that and certainly the airline industry would oppose that," said Scott Hamilton, an aviation-industry consultant for Leeham Company.

CNN reported on Thursday morning that the patent was recently discovered by an analyst at CB Insights.

Amazon’s patent contends such a system would allow for deliveries to be made in minutes. The patent describes that Amazon blimps would circle over cites at 45,000 feet and launch drones carrying orders.

"You have commercial airlines flying at 41,000 feet, some can go to 43. But just to have the drones floating down through all the traffic lanes is just loony," Hamilton said.

The drones would initially fall to earth relying largely on gravity, and their motors would fire up for the final stretch.

After completing a delivery, a nearby shuttle would fly them back to the blimp. CNN reported that is because the drones, which can run for about 30 minutes, might not have enough power to fly back on their own.

 >> Amazon released this Q&A on its website about its drone service.

Amazon’s blimp patent cites deliveries to sporting events would be useful for consumer. Amazon's blimp warehouse, which would fly near the stadium, could anticipate people's needs and stock up on popular items.

Amazon made its first-ever customer delivery with a drone earlier in 2016.

A fully autonomous drone flew 13 minutes to deliver the service’s first package, weighing 4.7 pounds, to a British man near Cambridge in the U.K.’s countryside. He ordered a Fire TV and a bag of popcorn.

Explore>> Watch the video of the delivery here.

Earlier this month, the company said it made the first "PrimeAir" delivery to a customer in England, 13 minutes after his purchase.

In the United States, the FAA is writing rules for drone-package delivery.

On Thursday, an agency spokesperson wrote to KIRO 7 that the FAA expects to propose a rule for public comment early in 2017 for commercial drone use above some people.

The FAA says it will also propose a rule next year for flying drones beyond the sightline of the pilot.