A drone patent gold-rush is underway

Recent data from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) indicates that an aerial gold-rush is underway in the wonderful wild-west of drone patent land. In the very simplest terms, a patent is a right granted for an invention.

Having surveilled the (air)scape at a very high level, here is a snapshot of 3 drone related patents that caught our eye.

Photo by the Dronetrepreneur from Instagram.

1. Amazon’s “Airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery” (AFC)

This is perhaps our favourite. Points are awarded here for envisioning a Hindenburg-style warehouse blimp in the sky. Points are also awarded for the sheer engineering audacity such a project would entail. Some have dubbed this potential colossus the “Amazon Death Star”.

And how does this relate to drones? The patent indicates that unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) would be deployed from the AFC to deliver items to users. Bzzzzz!

Let’s hope that if we ever do see something like this in our sky, that it doesn’t obscure too much of the sun. Or that it doesn’t meet the same fiery fate as the Hindenburg.

Amazon AFC Patent Extract
Image: an excerpt from Amazon’s patent.

2. IBM’s “Drone delivery of coffee based on a cognitive state of an individual”

Coffee lovers rejoice! Somewhat smaller in scale than the Amazon Death Star, this helpful and somewhat comical drone (or fleet of drones) would buzz around and determine who might be in need of a quick coffee pick-me-up. It would then go about supplying the caffeinated solution. Doesn’t it make your heart warm?

Ignoring the inherent hilarity and general spookiness of the concept for a moment. With progressive leaps in various forms of technology (including facial recognition technology) this idea may not be as far-fetched as you initially may have thought.

Image: an excerpt from IBM’s patent.

3. Amazon’s “Trigger agents in video streams from drones”

That’s a mouthful. Let us explain in plain English.

This patent is for a delivery drone that can visually scan the delivery drop-off point (for example, a customer’s yard) and then make recommendations to that customer. For example, the drone could detect a problem with the customer’s roof or that trees in the customer’s yard are dead or dying.

So what? Well, according to the patent it could then prompt the customer to see whether they would like the services of a roofer or an arborist. How about some fertiliser for the yard as well? Smell like a good idea?

An idyllic coastal suburb. Photo by the Dronetrepreneur from Instagram.

Other outlandish ideas

Perhaps you know of other bizarre patents that have been filed other than the listed 3. If not, we can assure you that there are many.

Maybe you have struck veritable pay dirt with a new drone use-case that’s prime for patenting. If so, perhaps consider exploring the idea further.

Whether the technologies described in the patents the subject of this article fully traverse from science-fiction to science-fact is another matter. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how things play out, including what unusual patents await around the corner.

I wonder what Einstein, a former patent examiner, would have thought of some of these patents if he were around today…

Feature photo by Edgar from Unsplash.