Amazon May Make Drones That Communicate Using Lights and Music

Based on this Amazon patent filing, the company's delivery drones could use music, lights, and movement to communicate with customers.

Amazon Technologies Inc.

Amazon Technologies Inc. has filed yet another delivery drone patent. This particular document details the company’s latest efforts to make the interaction between UAVs and customers especially interactive. 

The patent filing, published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office this week, describes warning sounds, maneuvers and projected text on the ground as methods of communication.

For one thing, Amazon appears to be brainstorming on how to assuage its customers’ anxiety at the thought of dealing with delivery drones for the first time. The drone could communicate with first-time customers “by emitting a warning sound, a pleasant tune, or other audio,” according to the patent filing. 

Additionally, a spotlight could point at objects in the way of a designated drop-zone, and aerial maneuvers could let customers know that something’s wrong (move your lawn furniture out of the way, please). 

Amazon Technologies Inc. / United States Trademark and Patent Office

We’ve seen the tech giant delve into drone communication territory before, with patent filings for systems that would let customers use voice commands or physical gestures to interact with its UAVs. This time, the shoe may be on the other foot, with the drones initiating communication. 

One of the more novel ideas presented in this recent patent filing is the possible implementation of a projector that would communicate with a customer and have the onboard camera visually record responses and commands.

The projector would allow for the UAV to “project information and/or text on a surface,” which would serve as a “request for the person to take a specific action.” In other words, say the drone arrives, but your yard is littered with lawn furniture and children’s toys. The UAV is unsure whether or not it should drop the payload at its predetermined drop-zone or not, so it projects a “yes” and “no” onto the ground. By stepping onto either word, the drone’s camera recognizes your decision, and either delivers the package or doesn't. 

Amazon Technologies Inc. / United States Trademark and Patent Office

A drone could also perform a “predetermined aerial maneuver prior/during an approach to the destination or while above the property, which may be associated with a message (e.g. need a designated drop zone, need to remove obstacle, etc.) or action (e.g. landing soon, etc.),” according to the patent filing. 

The embedded spotlight, too, would serve as an additional method facilitate delivery by literally shining a light on an obstacle in the UAV’s way. 

Additionally, “the UAV may send a text-based message to a smartphone associated with an expected recipient of the package to notify the expected recipient that the UAV is arriving and will be depositing the package soon.” That should give you extra time to clean up your yard for an easier delivery.