It seems like hardly a week passes without Amazon posting another patent for its Prime Air delivery drone.
Some are wackier than others, and it’s not clear how many of the ideas will ever make it into its final design, but several elements of the features shown in the latest filing actually already exist in some drones already on the market.
Part of the patent focuses on the use of various gestures to guide the drone — complete with the package you’ve just ordered — to a safe landing site. A number of consumer drones like DJI’s Mavic Pro and Mavic Air can already respond to physical gestures given via the controller’s hands, but Amazon’s idea also suggests how the customer could use voice control as the drone nears its destination.
By way of example, the web giant has included one of the most amusing illustrations we’ve ever seen (shown below) in a patent document. Such drawings can often be dry and rather technical, but this one shows a cartoon-like figure frantically waving his arms around and apparently screaming at the drone. There’s an empty speech bubble above him, which you can have fun filling in yourself. It appears to suggest that drone delivery could be a rather stressful affair for some customers, in which case an old-fashioned delivery driver may be preferred.
The patent, which was filed in July 2016 and granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week, outlines how the customer could instruct the drone to drop the package (on-board sensors will confirm that it’s safe to do so), or use physical gestures to ensure a safe flight path as it comes in to land. In that sense, the customer may end up looking a bit like one of those marshals you see at airports that guide the plane to the gate. Except hopefully you won’t need the batons.
As we said at the top, Amazon has filed a large number of patents in the last few years that focus on the development of a drone platform for delivering items to customers that live close to its fulfillment centers. According to some of its more offbeat ideas, a future drone delivery system could also utilize beehive-like drone towers placed in or near urban areas for deliveries to city folks, and even giant floating warehouses that the drones buzz to and from as they go about their deliveries.