Will This Amazon Drone Self Destruct?

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Recent news reports indicate that Amazon has patented a self-destructing drone that falls apart in an emergency.

One of the big worries about delivery drones is what happens if something goes wrong mid-delivery? We don’t want people’s parcels (or the drones carrying them) falling from the sky, causing damage and injury. Well, Amazon thinks this might not actually be a bad idea — as long as the drones fall safely. Earlier this week, the company was granted a patent for the “direct fragmentation for unmanned airborne vehicles.” In other words: a drone that takes itself apart midair if something goes wrong.

Read More: The Czech Army To Expand UAV Capabilities

The patent describes how an onboard “fragmentation controller” would take charge in the event of a catastrophic failure, like a battery exploding or propellor 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.

It sounds counter-intuitive as a safety protocol, but if a drone is going to crash anyway, it’s better that it hits the ground in small chunks, rather than as bigger, heavier intact aircraft. An illustration from the patent shows a drone dropping various components onto patches of empty ground and a small lake, before crashing itself safely in a tree.

An illustration from the patent shows a drone dismantling itself mid-air.
An illustration from the patent shows a drone dismantling itself mid-air.

The patent reads: “During the fragmentation sequence, one or more parts or components of the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] can be released. In doing so, the weight, speed, air drag coefficient, and other factors related to the UAV can be altered.”  Continue reading about Amazon’s Seld-Destructing Drone.


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