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Amazon Awarded Patent For "Self-Destructing Drones"

Amazon has just been granted patent number 9,828,097 for drone technology that allows the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to self-destruct in a sequence in the event of a catastrophic failure.

The abstract of the patent describes the process as “directed fragmentation of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)”, which basically means the craft will strategically disassemble itself in the air during an emergency.

The patent describes how an onboard computer called the “fragmentation controller” would override the traditional flight systems in the event of a catastrophic failure.

The computer would then quickly analyze the future flight path, taking in calculations for weather conditions and terrain, before initiating a “fragmentation sequence.”

Amazon provides an illustration of the self-destructing drone in motion dropping the heaviest components of the craft on a tree and a body of water.

The abstract of the patent reads:

Directed fragmentation of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is described. In one embodiment, the UAV includes various components, such one or more motors, batteries, sensors, a housing, casing or shell, and a payload for delivery.

 

Additionally, the UAV includes a flight controller and a fragmentation controller. The flight controller determines a flight path and controls a flight operation of the UAV. During the flight operation, the fragmentation controller develops a fragmentation sequence for one or more of the components based on the flight path, the flight conditions, and terrain topology information, among other factors.

 

The fragmentation controller can also detect a disruption in the flight operation of the UAV and, in response, direct fragmentation of one or more of the components apart from the UAV. In that way, a controlled, directed fragmentation of the UAV can be accomplished upon any disruption to the flight operation of the UAV.  

The order in which components are discharged from the craft could be based on their value, said the patent. The process of detachment is said to use “springs, small explosive charges, compressed gas charges, or similar mechanisms”.  Even though Amazon has been granted the patent, it doesn’t make the development of a self-destructing drone inevitable.

According to The Verge, the company has applied for various patents including: “parachutes built into shipping labels, drone beehives for distribution in big cities, and drone-carrying blimps.” Further, the article believes Amazon’s style is to “aggressively throw ideas at the wall” in the form of patents and see what sticks.

Nevertheless, all these wild and wonderful inventions have yet to be approved by government regulators, thus making it a pipeline for now.

Perhaps in a preview of things to come, Amazon delivery drones self-destructing in the sky might not be the best idea, as per the video below: