Amazon Patents House-Scanning Drone

Amazon has had a patent approved for a drone that can scan a business or residence while making a delivery, in order to create personalized recommendations based on what is found.

The patent, called Trigger Agents in Video Stream from Drones, allows an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to be configured to record audio or video data during delivery, and to recommend a product or service based on what it sees and hears.

According to the patent, drones may be configured with devices to capture data during product delivery. Those devices could be cameras, video cameras, microphones or audio sensors which will scan a home and either make recommendations on the spot or relay data to servers for analysis.

Data gathered in this way can either be stored temporarily in a cache or more permanently in an offsite server or data center.

An example provided in the patent considers a drone that records footage of a roof requiring repairs. The drone records video during a standard delivery, and when the data is relayed and reviewed, it is determined that the roof of the delivery residence is in need of repair. A service provider can then generate a recommendation to the customer, letting them know of the discovery and offering products or services related to roof repair.

Recommendations may be provided by email, text, or on Amazon itself.

The patent does state that the video surveillance and recommendation service would be opt-in. Additionally, the patent is tied to geofence of the user location associated with the property, in an attempt to protect the privacy of other inhabitants of the building or area who may not have opted-in to the recommendation service.

Even after some successful tests, delivery drones are yet not ready for regular deployment in the commercial sector. However, even with an opt-in requirement and geofencing, there are obvious privacy concerns associated with the very concept of captured video and audio recordings on private property. These concerns include the accidental collection of data from individuals who have not opted-in to the service, storage parameters for collected data, and access to material collected during surveillance, among many others.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) NTIA released a set of drone best practices, to create a framework for privacy and accountability in the commercial and private use of drones. However, adherence to these practices is voluntary.

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