Amazon Patents Self-Disintegrating Drone
Amazon has a new idea to ensure delivery safety: a self-destruct drone.
On Friday, The Verge reported that Amazon has submitted a patent for a drone that can initiate a crash sequence and break itself into pieces in case of emergencies.
The idea behind the design is simple: If anything goes wrong while an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is delivering your latest Amazon splurge, it’s safer to have a bunch of small drone fragments fall out of the sky instead of one big one. Ok, sure.
The patent is dated Nov. 28, and describes the process for “directed fragmentation” of a drone in the event of “service disruptions due to unsuitable weather conditions, equipment malfunctions, and other problems.” According to the patent:
The fragmentation sequence can be evaluated and updated over time based on the flight path of the UAV, the ongoing flight conditions for the UAV, and the terrain topology over which the UAV is flying, among other factors… A controlled, directed fragmentation of various parts of the UAV can be accomplished upon disruption of the flight operations of the UAV or at other desired times. This can result in the UAV, and certain parts of the UAV, landing at more preferable or suitable locations if flight operations are disrupted.
The UAV would be able to set a flight path based on where dropping the drones would inflict the least potential damage, such as in a field or a lake.
Look, there’s even a helpful picture! Which depicts a scenario in which a drone drops its propellers and such before crashing into a handy dandy tree.
An Amazon drone made its first real delivery in December 2016. Back in May, the company submitted another patent, that time for a parachute-enabled shipping label. You know, so your packages can drop on your doorstep like in the Hunger Games. (Which is basically life in 2017, at this point.)
So does that mean that self-destructing parachute-dropping drones will soon be delivering all your Amazon buys? It seems more likely that the patents are just meant to cover Amazon’s bases in case they decide to go in this direction, and doesn’t indicate anything for sure.
With little meaningful legislation about drone delivery on the books, a UAV-powered delivery economy could still be a while off. So no need to duck and cover just yet.