Toyota Patents 'On-the-Fly' Autonomous Recharging Tank Drone

The self-driving drone may be deployed for car-to-car recharging.
Fabienne Lang
Toyota's potential autonomous drone tankerPatentSwarm

Autonomous tanker drones may be gracing the streets in the future. A patent filed by automaker Toyota has come to light, first uncovered by the Drive, which outlines the company's plans for self-driving refueling and recharging tanker drones. 

These would supposedly latch on to cars on the road, or in parking lots, and charge or fuel them up. 

The system appears to be similar to that of autonomous aircraft aerial refueling ones.


Gone will be the days of running out of gas or battery power and waiting by the side of the road for help. That is, if Toyota's patent comes to fruition. 

Looking closely at the patent, it's hard to tell whether the cars being refueled or recharged would have to be stationary. There's a good chance that the entire system could function while the car is moving. 

Toyota Patents 'On-the-Fly' Autonomous Recharging Tank Drone
The autonomous tanker drone per the patent. Source: PatentSwarm

Named "on-the-fly," the system may well mean recharging cars while on the move. 

From the patent's drawings, the autonomous recharging/refueling drone would have to be extremely close to the car. The system would work off of GPS to locate cars in need of fuel or power — be that gasoline, diesel, or electricity. Then sensors would kick in to ensure the drone doesn't ram into the back of the vehicle before automated fuel ports open up for the refueling process, as Futurism reports.

Toyota Patents 'On-the-Fly' Autonomous Recharging Tank Drone
The tanker drone refueling a car. Source: PatentSwarm

The drone itself may be able to carry out several refueling stops along its course, before returning back to base to charge itself. 

Toyota Patents 'On-the-Fly' Autonomous Recharging Tank Drone
The drone would be able to provide gasoline, hydrogen, and electricity per the patent. Source: PatentSwarm

Many patents don't see the light of day, and such tech doesn't exist yet and it's likely it'll still need a lot more time before such a system can be launched in real life. First off, fully autonomous cars need to become readily available and approved for road use. 

For the time being, humans still rule the roads.

Toyota Patents 'On-the-Fly' Autonomous Recharging Tank Drone
The system may be able to carry out several recharges before heading back to base. Source: PatentSwarm
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