Amazon’s Innovation Drive is focused on distribution, not the FAA’s safety imperative

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Amazon is clearly a leading innovator in the operations of UAS aircraft for its distribution network. Its research and development is probably second to none. Its vision and that of the FAA are on different wavelengths; Mr. Bezos’ firm, a global entrepreneur, sees opportunity and the FAA, as regulator, sees safety risks. The Seattle based company has received patents for some of its inventions (see the above diagram of one aspect of its application).

What aspects of its research needs intellectual property protection signals what Amazon regards as important innovations. It appears that the priorities of the company are directed to its operational needs, rather than the safety imperatives which are critical to the expansion of UAS under the FAA’s necessary predicates.

To be fair, perhaps Amazon is NOT seeking intellectual property protection for the safety innovations which are on the FAA’s list of critical safety advancements. The company may intend to put such inventions into the public domain for all to share.

Please excuse the legal jargon of the US Patent and Trademark Office, but here is the description of the rights granted to Amazon:

A system for aerial delivery of items to a destination location,

  • comprising: a plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles,
    • each of the plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles configured to aerially transport items;
  • an unmanned aerial vehicle management system, including:
    • a processor; and a memory coupled to the processor and storing program instructions that when executed by the processor cause the processors to at least: receive a request to deliver an item to a destination location; and send to an unmanned aerial vehicle of the plurality of unmanned aerial vehicles, delivery parameters identifying a source location that includes the item and a destination location;
    • wherein the unmanned aerial vehicle, in response to receiving the delivery parameters, is further configured to at least: navigate to the source location; engage the item located at the source location; navigate a navigation route to
    • the destination location; and disengage the item.

Clearly Amazon’s focus is on delivery optimization and customer satisfaction. Speed and efficiency of getting the purchase are the technological targets of this patent.

As presently written, however, FAA Part 107 poses several major impediments to the Amazon vision. Primarily, the regulation would not permit operations beyond a line-of-sight and without a “sense and avoid.” The FAA regards technological advancements, which would assure safe UAV flights when the operator cannot see the vehicle and which would maintain separation between and among the Amazon UAVs, other UAVs and other aircraft, to be predicates to the future. They must be discovered before the company’s vision of almost instant distribution system direct to customers’ homes can be authorized.

This patent is a good addition to Amazon’s inventory of technology, but its R&D is not advancing safety innovations needed to get authorization from the FAA.

ARTICLE: Amazon Patent Links UAS Delivery to Smartphone

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