Amazon have created a drone which, if it encounters unexpected problems, can enable a safety mode called fragmentation sequence mode.
I’m sure we all remember Jeremy Clarkson hosting that pre-Christmas video released by Amazon 2 years ago detailing the dilemma of Millie’s favourite football boot being chewed by the family’s cute Bulldog. He described how Amazon were pioneering the revolutionary idea of drones using sense-and-avoid technology to deliver our parcels and packages. This miracle of modern technology was promising to replace trucks and their drivers with unmanned UAVs.
But still no sign of this fleet of parcel-delivering drones 2 years on?
Well it appears that the idea hasn’t been totally shelved, but enhanced and made safer.
Late November 2017 a patent was granted to Amazon by the US Parent and Trademark Office entitled ‘Direct Fragmentation for Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAV’s)’.
This patent had first been filed for in June 2016.
It describes a release system in the design of the drone that includes attachment mechanisms such as clips, latches and hooks. In any emergency situation (e.g. extreme heat, cold, wind, rain or high pressure systems), and if the drone is already descending, then this system will allow safe break up of the drone into lots of lighter pieces which would be unlikely to cause the same amount of damage on the ground as an intact heavier drone would.
Scientifically, the patent includes an electromagnet and springs to release components such as batteries, cameras, antennas and/of fuel tanks to enable this so- called fragmentation.
This would reduce the risk of any injury to pedestrians on the ground below.
By getting rid of certain parts of the drone, this fragmentation system would enable the weight and the speed of the UAV to be altered so that the drone may not get destroyed.
The other safety aspect of the patent describes how flight controllers would analyse the path of the falling drone while systematically using explosive force to dismantle the drone in mid air based on conditions such as terrain and flight conditions.
So in this way the drone’s flight sensors would use terrain information to know where to discard these fragments/components.
It all does beg the question: would our precious and eagerly awaited parcels explode together with the fragmenting drone?
It is unclear at the moment
whether this granted patent will pave the way for this UAV technology to ever be put to use, or whether it is just the latest of many bizarre Amazon creative ideas.