Amazon gets US patent for 'countermeasures' to protect drone delivery

Amazon secures patent to protect drone delivery

Amazon received a patent that covers technology to give it extra anti-hacking protections when drones are out doing deliveries, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Amazon, which has dubbed its drone-based delivery service Prime Air, recently had its first actual drone delivery using the technology.

The e-commerce giant initially filed in 2014 for the patented technology covering "countermeasures of threats to an uncrewed autonomous vehicle."

Amazon said in the filing the UAVs, or drones, can be targets of a "malicious person" using a wireless signal jammer and it indicates there could be "a variety of adverse effects including the UAV crashing."

The technology patent is based on both a so-called mesh network and the process of several drones communicating with one another through the sharing of data "to confirm or cross-check data such as location, heading, altitude, and so forth" — all designed to detect data differences and possible signs of a drone being compromised.

"Disagreement between data generated by the first UAV with external data from the second UAV may result in the determination that the first UAV is compromised," the filing explains.

Moreover, the filing reveals that communications links on the mesh network can be encrypted and use other techniques such as "frequency hopping, spread-spectrum, and so forth, to maintain security, reduce interference."

Graphic from Amazon's new patent, which shows technology to make its drone delivery service more resistant to malicious signal jamming and other unwanted interference.

According to the filing, "The countermeasures may reduce or eliminate ill-intentioned acts, inadvertent system failures, or mitigate the impact of such acts or failures. For example, theft of the UAVs or items carried by the UAVs due tampering may be reduced or eliminated.

"If a malicious person attempts to gain control of the UAV, the compromise may be detected, and the UAV may enter a fail-safe mode in which the UAV returns to base or lands on the ground," the patent filing states.

Amazon has said it has Prime Air development centers in the U.K., U.S., Austria and Israel. The recent drone delivery took place earlier this month in the U.K. near Cambridge and took about 13 minutes to complete.

Amazon tests its first drone delivery and it took 13 minutes

Amazon Prime Air is designed to deliver packages up to five pounds and provide deliveries in no more than 30 minutes using the drones, according to the company. "Our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies, as well as sophisticated 'sense and avoid' technology," according to the company's Prime Air website.

"Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system," Amazon said.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.