Why Amazon patented a self-destruct drone

Drone fragmentation

A diagram shows how a delivery drone might manage its own controlled fragmentation if it encounters problems during its trip. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Most inventors look for ways to make their machines more robust, but Amazon has won a patent for delivery drones that fall apart more easily.

Why? For safety reasons.

The patent application, filed last year and published last week, lays out a concept that calls for an automated “fragmentation controller” to be included on the drone.

That controller, analogous to a flight controller, works out and updates a backup plan for breaking the drone apart if the flight is disrupted for some reason.

As the drone goes about its business, onboard systems and the drone fleet’s mission control center would be on the watch for potentially hazardous conditions, such as inclement weather or equipment malfunctions.

If the drone gets into a jam, the fragmentation controller could be activated to go through an optimized self-destruct sequence. Pieces of hardware would drop off or be ejected based on the terrain that’s surrounding the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, when it gets into trouble.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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