Amazon has been awarded a patent for a pocket-sized, voice controlled drone that can be used to help police in chases, aid firefighters in tackling blazes, and even find lost children.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will have a built-in software that will allow it to understand commands spoken by a user or controls from an app, according to a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filing from Tuesday.
Amazon did not mention Alexa – its artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistant – but as the e-commerce giant already has experience in this technology, it could potentially build it into its drones.
The drone will have a microphone and a camera that will allow it to carry out several functions outlined by the patent including:
- Finding a lost child whereby the drone's camera will identify a person's face or perhaps a barcode printed on the kid's clothes
- Locating a vehicle when a person can't find it a parking lot by recognizing trait such as the make, model or color
- In search and rescue missions to find downed airliners, sailors or ships lost at sea
- To identify people trapped in a burning building
- Following a suspect so that a cop car could cut off the runner
- Recording stunts or other activities, effectively replacing current helmet cameras
Amazon said in the patent that the drone will "act as an assistant for the user" so that users can ask it questions such as "is the dryer still running?". It sees this device as something that can be carried in a person's bag or pocket and deployed at any time.
Potentially, the UAV could act as a body guard. "In situations in which a user feels uncomfortable or in danger, such as walking down a city street at night, the UAV may act as a deterrent to potential attackers, provide piece of mind, and, worst case scenario, document the crime for police," the USPTO filing said.
Drones have been a big focus for Amazon, which is already testing UAV's to deliver packages. The company has filed several patents around drone technology including one that shows lampposts and tall buildings being used as docking stations for UAVs to recharge.
It's important to note that being awarded a patent does not necessarily mean Amazon will develop this technology