The government has issued a patent to Amazon for a delivery drone that can respond to gestures from people.
The patent, issued earlier this week, is intended to allow delivery drones to interact with people who may be either standing outside their house waiting for a delivery, or simply be bystanders minding their own business as a drone comes zipping by them on its way to a delivery.
Amazon envisions that people may want to “shoo” its drones away.
“Humans may gesture by waving their arms in a shooing manner as the vehicle approaches them,” the patent says. “Based on these gestures, the vehicle may determine that such gestures indicate that it should not proceed further in the direction of the other humans. Accordingly, the vehicle may instruct its propulsion subsystem to adjust its trajectory and/or speed, or otherwise adjust or modify the vehicle’s behavior.”
The patent says that drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, could be programmed to understand a number of human gestures, not just warnings. People may also want to wave at a drone “to instruct the vehicles to come closer or drop a package,” the patent says.
“The human recipient may wave his arms in an inviting manner as the vehicle approaches,” it says. “This may be interpreted by the vehicle as an instruction to land and deliver the package.”
And it’s not just waving your arms around that might one day signal an Amazon drone. You might also be able to talk to it, to say something like, “yes, that package is meant for me, thanks.”
“To process a particular human gesture, the vehicle receives the gesture using one of its sensors, compares the received gesture with those in a database of human gestures, determines an action to take based on the comparison, and instructs the appropriate subsystem to take the action,” the patent says.
The drone would need a database of human gestures to compare what people are doing with possible meanings.
Among the gestures Amazon envisions programming into drones would be “waving of one’s arms aggressively in front of one’s face, covering of one’s head with one’s arms, moving of one’s arms in a shooing fashion (e.g., as one would shoo a flock of birds).” Those might result in the drone changing its flight path, or flying away.
“Alternatively, certain gestures (e.g., waving of one’s arms in an parallel directing manner (e.g., as one would direct street traffic or motion to a pilot in a cockpit of a plane), waving of one’s arms in an inviting manner, pointing at particular location(s), and other similar gestures) may, when processed, result in the onboard computer instructing the UAV to land, deliver its payload, or in some way interact with the human making the gestures,” the patent says.