Amazon was recently awarded a patent for a voice-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle assistant, which the e-commerce giant envisions will be “smaller, lighter, and less expensive than conventional UAVs.” The aircraft would come in handy for a range of applications, such as enhancing support for police and locating lost objects.
“The UAV can act as eyes and/or ears, among other things, for the user to extend the user’s perception,” the patent states. “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.”
Amazon lists several day-to-day scenarios for which a miniature drone would prove useful.
Locating lost objects: Users can deploy the UAV to scan a parking lot for a lost car or a store for a lost child, for example.
Firefighting: Using a thermal imaging camera, the UAV can locate hot spots (dangerous pockets of smoldering material) that would otherwise go undetected in house and forest fires.
Security: The UAV can be deployed in uncomfortable situations as a security or recording device. If a user is afraid of walking down a city street at night, for example, the drone can act as a deterrent to potential attackers—or (should something happen) capture important, crime-related information for police.
Law enforcement: Providing focused audio and video, the UAV can act as a mobile dash cam for police., offering a better vantage point at traffic stops, photographing license plate numbers, and (in the event of a chase) pursuing suspects—enabling the officer to call for backup.
That’s a lot of processing power to pack into a pocket-sized machine: the system has to recognize and analyze voice commands, perform the task, and then report back. (Although, the patent does note that the drone can also be controlled via a smartphone app.) To fulfill these functions, the drone would need to integrate a propulsion system, processor, data transceiver, camera, and memory module—and yet still be small enough to stash in the back pocket of your Levis.
Logistics aside, the patent is yet another indication that Amazon has drones on its mind a lot these days. The company has already unveiled prototypes of its delivery drones, which are currently being tested out in the U.K.