In the not too distant future, we may see our skies filled with delivery drones of all shapes and sizes, bringing us merchandise right to our door. But what happens if that delivery drone gets itself into trouble, either through conditions in the air or equipment or operator failure?
Amazon would rather not have a renegade drone smash into people or property, so they’ve filed a patent for drone technology that allows the craft to strategically self-destruct in the event of an emergency. Having the vehicle destruct into pieces before impact greatly reduces the chance for significant damage to people or things on the ground.
The patent describes how an onboard “fragmentation controller” would take charge in the event of a catastrophic failure, like a battery exploding or propeller failing. The computer would quickly study the drone’s flight path, weather conditions, and nearby terrain, before initiating a “fragmentation sequence,” where the drone slowly dismantles itself midair.
The order in which parts are jettisoned could be selected based on their value, says the patent, and then detached using hooks, springs, or “small explosive charges.”
The illustration included with the patent filing shows the device disassembling to drop pieces on empty patches of ground, in a small body of water, and safely crashing into a tree.
We’ve seen a few curious Amazon patents this year like their beehive landing station and the underwater package storage system, so we won’t know if this patent will see the light of day until the rollout of an actual delivery program.