Auto Tech

Amazon patents a drone that can juice up your EV on the fly

It's like that scene from "Air Force One," but a lot less harrowing.

Refueling on the move sounds like a pipe dream when it comes to gas cars, but Amazon could make it a reality for your future electric car.

Amazon was recently granted US patent number 9,778,653, otherwise known as "Systems, devices and methods delivering energy using an uncrewed autonomous vehicle." Basically, it's a drone that can juice up your EV's battery while you're on the move.

What's a tree doing in this picture? Your guess is as good as mine.

US Patent and Trademark Office

It works like this: If an EV is incapable of reaching its destination with its current charge level, it can request a top-off from a server, which will dispatch a drone to a rendezvous location. The drone will read a target atop the car to determine it's the right one, and it will then dock with the vehicle while it's moving, providing extra charge so the car can reach its destination.

The images included with the patent application show multiple methods of attaching the drone to the target vehicle, including a retractable docking system and another that relies on clamps. The drone's battery is rechargeable, so it can return to base and fill itself back up before supplying yet another EV with juice.

I wouldn't expect much in the way of charge, though. Current production charging tech still requires nearly 30 minutes to charge a battery most of the way, and even futuristic methods like VW Group's planned 800-volt chargers would still require a connection time measured in minutes, not seconds. But if you only need 30 to 40 miles of range, it could be rather helpful in a small span of time.

Amazon first applied for this patent back in June 2014, and it was only granted this month. Like many other patents, there's no guarantee that Amazon will actually create a product based on the design. It could merely be an attempt to stop competitors from doing so. But given range anxiety is a major issue for many potential EV buyers, a little extra peace of mind sure wouldn't hurt.

(Hat tip to The Drive!)