The idea Amazon is seeking to protect in US patent 9,624,034 B1 seems a little absurd at first glance - so much so that more than a few people suspect it is a PR stunt. However, take a closer look, and Amazon's vision for a new type of goods storage is no joke. According to the patent application lodged by Amazon, the "Aquatic Storage Facilities" will solve a fundamental problem with conventional warehousing - the inefficient use of available space.
While a standard warehouse loses a great deal of space to the aisles used by workers and robots to access stored goods, Amazon's underwater vision is much more efficient. The water-tight containers packed with goods are each fitted with a balloon which, like the swim bladder of a fish, can be filled with air as required. This means specific containers can be raised to the surface, where they can then be carried to a removal belt by an artificial current. Although it may at first seem like a very complex and expensive solution that is prone to errors, it could also offer other benefits besides saving space. For example, in principle, any reservoir could be used as a storage site and containers would simply have to be submerged and not allocated to a specific storage location. Amazon can even foresee aircraft simply dropping their cargo into the water. That could perhaps offer a simple way of dealing with times of peak demand, such as the annual Prime Day. One thing is certain - Amazon's aquatic approach will provide plenty to talk about at the forthcoming CeMAT.