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Amazon patents gesture-reading drones

Wednesday, March 28, 2018  
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Amazon’s aerial delivery programme just upped its game, and this time the drones are watching.

The e-commerce giant has been granted a new patent by the US Patent and Trademarks Office for parcel delivery drones that can read human gestures.

A series of sensors fitted to this new breed of flying robot will allow it to react to movements and hand signals as well as certain voice commands in order to improve safety and accuracy.

It will be designed to approach an individual within the vicinity to seek human gestures and ultimately identify both the recipient and the best flight path for a safe descent and drop-off.

According to the patent specifications, the drone will be alert to a number of cues such as: “waving of one’s arms in an inviting manner” or, conversely: “waving one’s arms aggressively”, “covering of one’s head with one’s arms” and even “moving of one’s arms in a shooting fashion” which could lead it to abort the consignment altogether.

Alternatively, the intended recipient can meet the drone at a specified time and guide it to the ground by moving the arms in a “parallel directing manner – such as one would direct street traffic or motion to a pilot”.

The vehicle’s communication system would also include a depth sensor and cameras to gauge different wavelengths, such as ultraviolet and infrared light.

Amazon has not revealed when the new gesture-reading technology will be launched, but the concept builds on its plans for a fleet of unmanned parcel distribution vehicles.

In 2016, Amazon completed its first automated aerial delivery during a private customer trial in the UK. Since then, the sky’s the limit, so to speak, as previous patent filings include giant Zeppelin-like flying warehouses and plans for drones that can self-destruct in an emergency. 

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