Amazon, the Seattle based online giant, has this week been awarded a patent for drones that can transmit and receive audio in a move that points to potential human interaction with the airborne craft. This is a critical element in situations where the drone requires to communicate with a human, for example, if a particular drop-off point is occupied by someone or an object during a delivery, then the drone would request the person or object to give way and be able to decipher the response.
According to the patent, the technology can be used remotely to communicate with people and animals on the ground and this can be very useful for customer service agents when interacting with customers. Although Alexa is not expressly mentioned in the patent, this development confirms Amazon’s approach to integrate its voice-controlled digital assistant, Alexa, into many other products like the Echo Look and Echo Show.
Further, the patent foresees drones that are equipped with state-of-art communication systems like two-way live video capabilities. This will enable the remote customer service agents to communicate through voice and video with the person interacting with the drone.
Amazon has in the past filed thousands of patents that have never come to fruition but have given it an upper hand to counter competition in a fast paced innovation space. It is therefore possible that Alexa-enabled drones may never materialize in the near future. However, looking at the company’s energy in developing Alexa and integrating it into more devices, and the push to develop an “airborne delivery system,” the delivery drones will be critical in covering the ‘last mile’ and making this whole concept commercially viable. The drones’ ability to communicate in this ‘last mile,’ makes this patent a likely candidate for implementation.