Amazon patents self-disintegrating drone

Commentary: What could be more helpful than if, in an emergency, your delivery drone breaks into smaller, less threatening pieces?

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Amazon Prime Air
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Amazon Prime Air

This drone will self-disintegrate in 5, 4, 3...


Those who create the future often fail to anticipate the downsides of their creations.

I'm therefore swooning with admiration at a new patent that's just been granted to Amazon.

The company has at least considered what might happen when one of its delivery drones encounters mechanical difficulties.

So this patent, first spotted by the Verge, envisions "directed fragmentation of an unmanned aerial vehicle." 

The idea is that Amazon's technicians and computers would take a look at where the drone is flying, examine the terrain below, take account of any wind or other weather conditions and then automatically break up the drone into smaller pieces that might cause less damage as they fall.

Amazon included a drawing to help envision the effect.


We'll drop this part in the pond, that part in the trees and that part just next to the picnickers.


This is no small concern.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos insists that his company's delivery drones will be as common as mail trucks.

We'll have to get used to the buzzing overhead, but that irritation will surely be nothing compared to the buzzing in our hearts that our new Kim Kardashian photography book will be landing shortly.

Now, though, we might also have to get used to bits of drones spontaneously falling into our gardens. 

One can only hope that Amazon's cameras will be fully aware of what's happening on the ground. Some of us are very attached to our local squirrels.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The invention has the potential to make some uneasy every time they see one of these little things in the sky. What if it accidentally drops the lingerie it's carrying straight onto my car?

This isn't the only Amazon drone patent application that might incite discomfort. Earlier this year, the company was granted a patent that allows its drones to coincidentally capture details about a property as they fly over it.

The official reason was to offer customers "a recommendation." It's unclear what sort of recommendation, but "Hey, you need a new roof, buy one on Amazon" is surely not beyond the bounds of reason.

On the drones, we're left wondering: If it has to be broken down remotely, what will happen to the package it's carrying? Won't someone who finds it be tempted to keep it? 

Just imagine if it's a new MacBook or a Galaxy S8. This self-disintegration could really make someone's day.

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