Details of Amazon delivery drones are revealed in US Patent Office application

May 10, 2015 |

The US Patent Office has made public patent application 20150120094, Unmanned Aerial Delivery System.  It was filed in September 2014 though the idea was floated, so to speak, long before that.  As is the way the application is quite technical and long.  What can be distilled from it are the following features of the drone delivery system:

  1. it will be configured to receive environment information from a second unmanned aerial vehicle and develop the navigation route from the source location to the destination location based at least in part on the delivery parameters and the environment information (2)
  2. the destination location will be one of a secure delivery location, a materials handling facility, a user designated delivery location, or a relay location (3);
  3. the computer-implemented method is described as “..under control of one or more computing systems configured with executable instructions, receiving a request to deliver an item to a destination location; selecting an unmanned aerial vehicle; sending delivery parameters to the selected unmanned aerial vehicle; and autonomously delivering the item from a source location to the destination location with the selected unmanned aerial vehicle.”(7)
  4. there will be relay locations where batteries will be recharged; (11)
  5.  wireless communication will be the main form of communication with drones an between drones; (15) – (16) & (19).

The BBC news piece Amazon details drone delivery plans reports on this development, and the broader complicating factor.  The law is limping very far behind the technology.

The article provides:

Details about how Amazon’s proposed delivery drones may work have been published by the US Patent Office.

According to the patent, the drones will be able to track the location of the person it is delivering to by pulling data from their smartphone.

The unmanned vehicles will also be able to talk to each other about weather and traffic conditions.

Amazon faces many regulatory hurdles before its plans can be turned into reality.

Amazon submitted its drone patent in September 2014, but the details are only now being published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, after it approved the ideas.

For many, Amazon’s idea of delivery via drone was seen as pie-in-the-sky, but the details it provides in its patent application suggest that the firm is taking the idea seriously and working hard to overcome a variety of technical obstacles.

Winning patent approval does not mean that the final product will be exactly as described or that it will become reality.

Amazon is leading the effort to convince the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to approve widespread commercial use of drones.

According to the plans, Amazon’s drones will be able to update their routes in real-time. A mock-up delivery screen suggests that people will be able to choose from a variety of delivery options – from “bring it to me” to nominating their home, place of work or even “my boat” as places for packages to be dropped.

Last month car maker Audi said that it would be trying out package delivery to the boot of its cars with Amazon and DHL.

Using Audi’s in-car communications system, Connect, DHL delivery drivers would track a customer’s vehicle over a specified period of time and then use a digital access code to unlock the boot, the car maker said. This code would then expire as soon as the boot was shut.

Other details revealed include:

  • Amazon will employ a variety of unmanned vehicles depending on the shape and weight of the product
  • Flight sensors, radar, sonar, cameras and infrared sensors will be employed to ensure safe landing zones are found
  • The unmanned vehicle would constantly monitor its path for humans or other animals and modify navigation to avoid such obstacles

Significant strides

Amazon’s plans for drone delivery puts increasing pressure on the FAA to allow more US-based drone research and development.

It has been criticised for dragging its heels on regulation and losing the impetus on drone development which has gone to other countries, most notably the UK which will build a drone research centre in London.

This week the FAA did make significant strides towards relaxing its rules on drone use, giving the go-ahead for unmanned helicopters to be used for spraying crops in the US as well as announcing plans for testing news-gathering drones in urban areas in partnership with CNN.

It also said it would also test commercial drones that can fly beyond an operator’s line of sight for inspecting railways.

Amazon had been testing its drone system in Canada where airspace regulations are more relaxed. but in March the FAA granted it permission to start testing in the US, although the drones can fly no higher than 400ft (122m) and must remain within the pilot’s line of sight.

 

 

One Response to “Details of Amazon delivery drones are revealed in US Patent Office application”

  1. Details of Amazon delivery drones are revealed in US Patent Office application | Australian Law Blogs

    […] Details of Amazon delivery drones are revealed in US Patent Office application […]

Leave a Reply