Over Our Heads
As we move into the fall season of a year studded by hard-to-conceive-of events, capped (so far) by the horrific devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we are struck by two recent hard-to-believe innovations that could further revolutionize retail and industrial real estate.
Over Our Heads
Both Amazon and Walmart are working on creating alternatives to traditional warehouses. Amazon was recently awarded a patent for "airborne fulfillment centers" or AFCs that would float at an altitude of 45,000 feet, stocked with products waiting to be delivered. Within moments after an order is placed, drones housed in these AFCs would deliver the goods, requiring little power as they glide down to reach their destinations.
Another use envisioned for Amazon's AFCs is quasi-retail in nature. Deployed at major sporting events, Amazon AFCs would launch drones to deliver food and merchandise to thousands of fans at a moment's notice.
Walmart is not far behind, having filed a patent application in August for a flying warehouse that would hover at much lower altitudes of between 500 and 1,000 feet to similarly make deliveries via drones.
Both Amazon and Walmart's flying, movable warehouses would eliminate the challenges of traffic and driving distances, reduce delivery costs and serve wider distribution areas as they move from one location to another based on real time orders.
Amazon has not stopped there. They recently filed a patent application for an under water storage facility. Their aquatic product-filled warehouses would be laden with water tight containers outfitted with cartridges that mimic the swim bladders of fish to control depth. To retrieve a container, acoustic waves would be sent to activate the cartridge necessary to send a particular package to the surface. According to Amazon, these underwater warehouses could stack products in endless piles of boxes with no need for humans or robots to move them around, thus eliminating the inherent inefficiencies of the pathways and shelving needed in traditional land based warehouses.