Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery service is still trying to take off, but it seems that the company might have finally quelled customer fears over the vehicle malfunctioning mid-flight. Addressing the safety concerns, Amazon has now been granted a patent for self-destructing drones.
Specifically, the paten regards the “direct fragmentation for unmanned airborne vehicles,” meaning it’s unlikely you’ll see fireworks all throughout the year until Amazon gets it right. Instead, this patent allows the drone to detect a fault mid-flight, and utilising a “fragmentation controller,” it can disassemble itself in order to allow the safe falling of its own parts.
The on-board computer studies the flight path, compares it with weather conditions and surrounding terrain before choosing at what point it ejects certain components. At first, this might seem more hazardous, but if crashing is inevitable for the drone, Amazon figures it safer to do so in smaller chunks.
“During the fragmentation sequence, one or more parts or components of the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] can be released. In doing so, the weight, speed, air drag coefficient, and other factors related to the UAV can be altered,” reads the patent. “According to aspects of the embodiments, the fragmentation sequence is tailored to modify or alter the manner in which the UAV descends, to control the descent in a preferred, controlled manner.”
While the basic drone technology is there, Amazon still has a long way to go before its air service gets officially approved. It still has to battle its flight controller issues of having so many UAVs flying around at once, find more economic value in its implementation and as for this specific patent, it still needs to be government approved.
KitGuru Says: For now, this is just a patent that Amazon might not use after its first round of testing, but how do you feel about the Prime Air service? Moreover, how do you feel about UAVs with miniature explosives attached as a fail-safe mechanism above your head?