Amazon has filed for a patent to incorporate drones in the roofs of its future delivery vehicles, leading to speculation that it may be about to launch a new mobile autonomous delivery service.

According to a news report on the SMMT website, the company has already tested drone deliveries in Cambridge city centre, and “claims that its Amazon ‘Prime Air’ service will have the capability to deliver certain lightweight goods in less than 30 minutes from the point of order via automated deliveries from static central hubs.”

But with the US patent application it filed last month, the company is “proposing mobile vehicles with drones mounted on the roof, and inbuilt charging stations to ensure drone batteries are never depleted. The vehicles would be deployed in areas of high demand, such as densely populated cities, or at events or product launches to service peak demand.”

Amazon’s plans are similar to a concept developed by Mercedes-Benz Vans and premiered at the 2016 Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show. The Mercedes-Benz Vision Van has roof-mounted drone pods, developed in partnership with new technology company Matternet, which are programmed before the van sets out on its delivery route to distribute its contents to addresses along the way.

Amazon’s patent application includes drones mounted in ships and trains, as well as for road vehicles.

View the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van here: