Are Amazon using vacuum conveying and other techniques to become logistics based?

It is no secret that Amazon has been moving away from a reliance on third party delivery in favour of more in-house ways of getting goods to their customers. A recently approved patent application demonstrates just how innovative the company’s thinking is in finding new delivery solutions.

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Amazon already owns a fleet of delivery trucks, and it is carrying out cutting edge research into delivery by drone, as well as establishing its own ocean and air freight operations. Amazon can even offer physical data transfer through its Amazon Web Service. Its motive is very simple: by cutting out the delivery middleman, Amazon increases its profitability and improves corporate diversification.

Vacuum Conveying

Amazon’s recent patent application is even looking at vacuum conveying as a way of delivering its goods.

Whilst this may seem like pure science fiction, the technology is well established (, and Amazon seems to be taking the idea seriously.

The patent application (which was approved at the end of 2016) describes a network of pipes through which products could be shuttled between Amazon’s distribution centres and the customer. They plan to use a system of vacuum conveyor tubes, rails, and belts linking the pipe network to airports, railway stations, local post offices and delivery centres, and in the long run even directly to customers’ homes. This would enable Amazon to avoid traffic congestion and problems associated with road freight, and cut down considerably on delivery times.

Air Freight

There is also a more traditional move to increase Amazon’s freight and logistics presence. One of the company’s main providers of planes for Prime Air has acquired a maintenance operation. Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) said that the acquisition improved its ability to maintain its customers growing fleet of Boeing 767s. Since Amazon is ATSG’s main customer, the implication is clear.

Fulfilment by Amazon

Amazon has for some time offered FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon), its own service for shipping third party goods for other vendors. Retailers who sign up to FBA can use Amazon’s storage facilities and subsequent delivery operation and customer service to fulfil orders to the public. What impact this will have on other retailers is unclear, but Amazon’s expansion into logistics is bound to lead to quicker, cheaper deliveries for the customer.