Amazon last week earned a patent for a proprietary method of detecting and recovering drones from hostile takeovers by “nefarious individuals.”
Filed nearly two years ago, the copyright ensures the safe operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—specifically during deliveries.
“As the use of UAVs continues to increase, so does the likelihood of hostility towards [them],” the latest document said. “Such hostility may come in the form of attacks brought for any number of purposes (e.g., steal the UAVs and their payloads, crash the UAVs, and otherwise cause disruption to the operation of the UAVs).
“Using these attacks, nefarious individuals and/or systems may be able to obtain control of the UAVs by hacking the communication signals being sent to the UAVs from a controller and/or being sent by the UAV to the controller,” Amazon explained. “Such attacks could cause the UAVs to operate unsafely and could also result in considerable financial loss for their operators.”
To counter these threats, Prime Air drones would feature a “heartbeat” signal, automatically transmitted every few seconds from the aircraft’s controller. If the signal stops—because of a possible hijacking—the UAV changes from “mission” to “safety” mode, performing pre-programmed actions to re-establish communication, regain control, and/or land safely.
Of course, not all patents come to fruition. But even if Amazon doesn’t pursue this hack-proof system, the company has identified a very real threat to delivery drones—one that needs to be addressed before my bi-monthly order of earplugs can be dropped from the sky.