Amazon has an idea to stop its delivery drones from being hijacked

Part of Amazon’s work on its proposed drone delivery service includes pumping out patents that explore an array of ideas for the technology.

While it’s hard to know if any of them will ever form part of the service, the filings at least give us some insight into how Amazon wants to build out the platform as it explores the various issues it believes it needs to overcome to make such a service viable.

Its most recent patent, granted last week by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, tackles the potential problem of drone hijackings.

With package-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying out of Amazon warehouses to customer homes, there could be occasional attempts by ne’er-do-wells to bring down the flying machines in order to steal the goods.

While Amazon’s patent makes no mention of thieves running around with giant butterfly nets as they try to catch the drones, it does talk of attempts to interfere with their communication systems, allowing the perpetrator to bring the machine down so they can nab whatever goodies it happens to be carrying.

Amazon says in the patent: “As the use of UAVs continues to increase, so does the likelihood of hostility towards UAVs. Such hostility may come in the form of attacks brought for any number of purposes (e.g., steal the UAVs and their payloads, crash the UAVs, and otherwise cause disruption to the operation of the UAVs).”

It continues: “Using these attacks, nefarious individuals and/or systems may be able to obtain control of the UAVs by hacking the communication signals being sent to the UAVs from a controller and/or being sent by the UAV to the controller.” Amazon says such attacks “could cause the UAVs to operate unsafely and could also result in considerable financial loss for their operators.”

The patent explores the idea of sending a “heartbeat” signal from the controller to the drone every few seconds. If the heartbeat detects interference from a third party, the drone will automatically switch from mission mode to safety mode, prompting it to make efforts to either reestablish communication with the controller, regain control over the drone in the event of a hostile takeover, or possibly land the machine at a safe location where it can be rebooted or collected.

Amazon’s drone-related patents so far include everything from beehive-like drone towers and parachute drops to church steeple charging stations and self-destructing systems for malfunctioning machines. It even has one for a “flying warehouse” that would hover above urban areas and act as a base for the delivery drones. Now that we’d like to see.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Hi-viz bike reflectors and a tiny flashlight

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Home Theater

Apple's new AirPods could arrive within months, pack health sensor tech

Apple may release new AirPods in the first half of 2019. A wireless charging case, health sensors, water resistance, and better Siri integration are some of the improvements rumored to be part of the new package.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Words are so 2018. The Peeqo robot speaks exclusively in GIFs and video clips

Move over, Amazon Echo! Peeqo is a cute robot that will answer your spoken word questions by displaying a specially selected short video or GIF. Because, you know, it’s the year 2019.
Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

Airbus will stop making the world’s biggest passenger plane

Airbus announced this week that it will stop building the world's biggest passenger plane in 2021. The maker of the double-decker A380 said a changing market and lack of orders gave it little choice but to end production.
Emerging Tech

Exploding vape pen battery starts fire on SkyWest flight

A vape pen battery caused a fire in an overhead bin on a SkyWest Airlines flight on Wednesday. It's the latest in a string of incidents where faulty or poorly made lithium-ion batteries have caused gadgets to catch fire.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.