This article was published on April 26, 2016

Google patent for drone delivery might place far too much faith in human logic

Google patent for drone delivery might place far too much faith in human logic
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Amazon, Alibaba, Walmart and others are all experimenting with novel ideas to make drone delivery a reality.

One of the major concerns — that’s yet to really be addressed — is how to make this safe both for humans and other aircraft. Thousands of delivery drones, after all, would lead to some crowded airspace and we’re always just one catastrophic event from panic that could kill this sort of idea before it really takes off.

Google thinks it has the answer — at least as it relates to drone-to-human collisions — in a new patent. The patent details an autonomous delivery system that attempts to keep humans at a safe distance from delivery drones using a low-tech vocal warning.

Of course, Google may be overestimating human logic here, as detailed by this drawing that shows what happens after the drone issues the warning “caution: stay back.”

Credit: Google via Quartz

Seriously, when’s the last time the server told you your plate was hot and you weren’t overcome with the desire to touch it and find out for yourself?

Then again, the volume of the warning isn’t indicated in the patent illustration, so a screaming drone could definitely do the trick — at least for me. Maybe it starts with a gentle warning and slowly progresses to shouting profanity and insults — we can’t really tell from the patent itself.

A vocal warning isn’t the only trick up this drone’s sleeve; it would also feature warning lights using the standard stoplight system of red (for stay back), yellow (for almost done) and green (for pick up your package before your neighbor steals it).

Once it’s sure the obstacle (you) is clear, it’ll drop the delivery using a tether that utilizes sensors to tell when your package is safely on the ground. From there, it’ll detach the box before retracting the tether and zipping on to its next delivery.

Alternatively, it could somehow play nice with another Google patent — a box on wheels designed to receive your packages.

Credit: Google via Quartz

As this patent details, even in the world of ever-improving technology, sometimes the simplest fix really is the best solution. Of course, it doesn’t take into account human stupidity either. Here’s to hoping Google opted for the profanity and insults solution as a backup plan.

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