Amazon Has a New U.S. Patent to Protect Its Drones

December 22, 2016, 1:21 PM UTC
Drone in Flight
Photo by Bruce Bennett — Getty Images

Amazon received a technology patent this week to give its drones extra anti-hacking protection when making deliveries, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Amazon (AMZN) filed for the patented technology covering countermeasures against threats to drones, or uncrewed autonomous vehicles (UAV), because it said that third parties could interfere with a drone’s wireless communications system using a wireless signal jammer. If successful, “these threats may cause a variety of adverse effects including the UAV crashing,” the filing explains.

The technology patent, initially filed in 2014, is based on a so-called mesh network, where several drones will be able to distribute information to one another. The shared data will enable the UAVs to “to confirm or cross-check data such as location, heading, altitude, and so forth,” according to the filing. However, the technology’s main purpose to detect “data differences within the network to determine if drone has been compromised.”


“Disagreement between data generated by the first UAV with external data from the second UAV may result in the determination that the first UAV is compromised. Remedial actions may be taken, such as the first UAV may be directed to a safe location to land or park, may receive commands from another UAV, and so forth,” the filing reads.

The mesh network can also be encrypted, and can also use other techniques such as “frequency hopping, spread-spectrum, and so forth, to maintain security, reduce interference.”

The drones, or UAVs, are used for Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service. Earlier this month, the e-commerce giant successfully delivered its first package with a drone in the United Kingdom. The drones are designed to deliver packages of up to five pounds in less than 30 minutes, according to Amazon. Currently, Prime Air has development centers in the U.K., U.S., Austria, and Israel. The company has yet to get regulatory approval to fly drones in the U.S.

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