October 20, 2016 -
Amazon has filed for a U.S. patent on voice-control “pocket drone” technology, which expands on the company’s efforts in voice recognition applications and virtual assistant by bringing it into the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market, according to a report by Geektime.com.
Voice commands for drones have been in development for years, with hobbyists modifying drones to take simple voice directional commands as early as 2010. Today, many of these basic systems can be purchased online and in stores.
Earlier this year, hackster.io revealed a proof-of-concept initiative using the Alexa virtual assistant to enable Amazon Echo through a ground station to deliver commands to commercial quadcopters.
Personalized voice commands are now possible through recent advances in speech recognition and machine learning technology, however, it would still be a significant challenge to enable commercial drones to decipher a single individual’s distinct voice commands.
Developing voice recognition protocols for drones would help automate Amazon’s package delivery process and ensure that the drone confirms it has reached the right person.
Amazon has previously filed several patents for delivery drones. However, many of these drone applications “are not legally covered” yet, and will depend on US regulators’ decisions in the future, according to Android Headlines.
The company’s latest patent, which combines sound and image functions, focuses on the technology’s public safety aspects. The patent states that the technology will have potential applications in law enforcement, search and rescue, and helping disabled individuals.
Image recognition for semi-autonomous drone flight is currently being developed, as is on board facial-recognition technology.
In a 2015 study by Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, researchers stated that “present [day] face recognition technologies are able to perform adequately on drones”.
Despite this, there are still many technological challenges standing in the way, including issues with camera angles, cloud computing, and machine learning.
Previously reported, Amazon quietly acquired image recognition startup Orbeus last fall for an unknown amount.