Amazon has sought patents for hitchhiking drones, mini-drones that can sit on shoulders, drones that assemble themselves like Lego toys – and now drones that flip their wings to go from vertical to horizontal flight.
The hybrid foldable-wing design is covered in a patent that was published on Tuesday, following up on an application filed back in 2014.
When the drone takes off, the robo-plane’s jointed wings would be folded around to provide a stable base for a vertical takeoff, with the rotors spinning in a horizontal plane.
But once the drone gets up in the air, the wings and tail would stretch out to create an airplane-style configuration. The rotors would then be spinning in a vertical plane, like a traditional airplane’s propellers, to push the drone forward.
When it’s time to land, the drone’s wings and tail would fold up again for a vertical landing. In their filing, Amazon’s inventors compare the craft to a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military aircraft, which tilts its rotors from vertical to horizontal, depending on whether it’s taking off or moving ahead.
The system could be well-suited for Amazon’s delivery drones, which have to lift off with packages weighing up to 5 pounds and then fly away horizontally at speeds of up to 50 mph to make deliveries within a half-hour.
But just because it’s patented doesn’t mean that Amazon will follow through with this particular design. The Seattle-based retail giant traditionally doesn’t comment on its patent strategies; however, Amazon has said there’s likely to be different types of drone designs for different environments.
Originally published at GEEKWIRE.