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AMAZON drones react to people screaming flailing

Issued: 2018-03-22

Amazon.com Inc. has been granted a new patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a delivery drone that can respond to human gestures.

The concept is part of Amazon's goal to develop a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that can send packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. Issued this week, the patent may help Amazon grapple with how flying robots might interact with human bystanders and customers waiting on their doorsteps.

Depending on a person's gestures — a welcoming thumbs-up, shouting or frantic arm waving — the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. As described in the patent, the machine could release the package it's carrying, change its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery.

Among several illustrations in the design, a person is shown outside a home, flapping his arms in what Amazon describes as an "unwelcoming manner," to showcase an example of someone shooing away a drone flying overhead. A voice bubble comes out of the man's mouth, depicting possible voice commands to the incoming machine.

"The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location," Amazon's patent states. (Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

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