Recently, the retail giant was granted a patent for a miniature, voice-controlled “unmanned aerial vehicle assistant” to be used by everyone from officers making traffic stops to shoppers just trying to figure out where they parked their cars.
According to the patent, off-board processing could be used to significantly reduce the size of the assistants compared to today’s drones while substantially increasing their capabilities. In one scenario described by Amazon, a UAV assistant would launch from a dock on a police officer’s microphone to act as a mobile dash cam and miniature partner.
“As shown in [the illustration above], during a routine traffic stop, for example, the officer can command the [drone] to ‘hover’ or ‘follow me,’” reads the patent. “In some examples, if a foot chase develops during a traffic stop, the officer can command the [drone] to follow the suspect so that he can attempt to cut the suspect off in the cruiser. Similarly, if there are two or more suspects, the officer can command the [drone] to follow one the suspects, while he gives chase to the other.”
While the patent’s diagrams focus on law enforcement applications, Amazon believes the assistant could be used “for many other purposes,” including clearing buildings for military forces and even helping people decide if it’s worth waiting in line.
“If a user is waiting in a long line to buy concert tickets, for example, the user may not be able to see over the crowd to see how many total people are in line,” reads the patent. “In this case, the user can just say ‘hover’ to the UAV and the UAV can take up a position at a predetermined distance above the user (e.g., 15 feet).”
When Amazon began investing in drones, it aimed to make a world where flying robots delivered customers their books and USB cables. Now, it seems, the internet’s biggest retailer has set its sights even higher.