Amazon has won a patent for a personal drone that can fit in a user’s pocket and respond to voice commands.
The unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, would receive such commands via a connected app, and would be equipped with facial recognition technology allowing it to identify individuals. In a sense, it represents an extension of a voice-controlled AI assistant like Siri or Alexa into the physical world around the user. And while it may run into some thorny legal issues with its use of facial recognition and potential violations of FAA airspace regulations, Amazon’s patent filing lists a number of remarkable uses for the drone: Such a drone could be sent to find a lost child, or a police officer could deploy her drone to follow a suspect who is fleeing a crime on foot. It could even be used as a personal safety device, acting as a sort of surveillance deterrent in monitoring a lonely walk home through a dangerous neighborhood.
Like so many other recent technologies, it sounds like science fiction until, suddenly, it’s not. The needed voice-based AI technology has evolved rapidly in recent years and months, and that process continues; meanwhile Amazon has already been testing drones for the delivery of purchases. But the launch of this kind of personal UAV would propel Amazon into some truly uncharted territory, with considerable potential legal risks and market rewards.
For now, though, it’s just a patent detailing an exciting idea – one that Amazon may or may not pursue.