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Your Next Assistant? Maybe an Amazon Drone

Drones as parcel delivery vehicles — that apparently isn't enough for Amazon.

23 Nov. 2016 Jörn Brien

Mini-drones as voice-controlled assistants

Mini helpers: A policeman uses drones to check driver's registration papers. (Image: Amazon/USPTO)

A new patent from the eCommerce giant calls for mini-drones to fly around as smart assistants. eCommerce giant Amazon long ago announced plans for a fleet of proprietary drones to deliver parcels. This now appears to be just one way in which the online retailer intends to work with drones. A new patent indicates that Amazon wants to provide users with mini-drones functioning as voice-controlled assistants. Uniformed policeman, such as officers on traffic duty, could be aided by drones.

In this case the policeman can review the driver's papers while the drone automatically records the car's license plate and sends it to the central servers for comparison. It would then inform the officer if there are outstanding warrants for the vehicle or its owner. Mini-drones outfitted with a GPS module could also potentially pursue fleeing suspects. The wireless smart assistant would 'live' on a shoulder holster worn by US policemen.

Mini-drones search for parked cars

Amazon claims the mini-drones could also be used for civilian purposes. The winged assistants might for example be deployed to help look for a user's car if they can't locate it. Amazon can also image bigger assistance drones equipped with more functions.

According to the patent, the drones are equipped with a camera and microphone and react to voice commands or a remote-control app. As with the Alexa assistance system, voice commands are processed centrally. It's unclear when we might see the first mini-drones as smart assistants to citizens or the police. Amazon has yet to provided concrete plans.