When we think of Amazon and drones, we think of airborne delivery.
But with a new patent awarded to the retailer on Tuesday, Amazon wants to expand UAV technology, making drones smaller, lighter, cheaper and responsive to voice commands.
In the company’s patent application, Amazon envisions “techniques and systems” that would allow drones (among other functions) “to provide enhanced support for police during routine traffic stops [or] to locate objects or people including, for example, locating a lost child in a crowd or a lost vehicle in a parking lot.”
Specifically, the drone system would provide a method for controlling a UAV with simple voice commands “to perform one or more tasks, least partially autonomously, to assist the user.”
The patented UAV system would include a tiny, pocket-sized drone equipped with image-recognition software and a voice-recognition module (similar to Amazon’s Alexa system). In diagrams, the drone is shown perched on the shoulder of a police officer ready to autonomously film a traffic stop or other situation to provide accountability and security for both officer and suspect.
Amazon explains in the application:
“In other words, the UAV can act as eyes and/or ears, among other things, for the user to extend the user’s perception. The UAV may be used, for example, to record information from a perspective different than the user’s perspective, scout dangerous situations, or locate/retrieve items for the user, among other possible tasks. In some examples, the UAV can be small enough to carry on the user’s person (e.g., in a bag, in a pocket, on a jacket, etc.) and allow for ready deployment.”
Personal safety could also play a role in consumer’s attraction to the voice-assisted drone. “In situations in which a user feels uncomfortable or in danger, such as walking down a city street at night, the UAV may act as a deterrent to potential attackers, provide piece of mind, and, worst case scenario, document the crime for police,” the application states.
The company’s patent would cover proprietary new processors on board the drone or would rely on a central control to perform cloud processing to free up the UAV from the heavy computing load.
Amazon’s interest in the drone industry has sparked a number of high-profile media reports beginning with its initial plan to offer drone delivery service (despite flying into plenty of red tape).
In September, the company added another patent to its drone arsenal – a plan that would “combine drones with trucks, allowing the drones to ‘hitch rides’ on the roofs of their own – and other -trucks and buses.”