In a terrifying development, Amazon has gained approval to develop a drone-based surveillance service. On Friday, Reuters reported the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved a proposal by the tech giant to use its delivery uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) to watch its consumers’ homes.
Eye in the Sky
Despite its unsettling implications, Amazon is positioning its new service as a kind of advanced home security system. In its patent documents, the corporation explained the UAVs would scan for broken windows, fires, or open doors. Last April, the firm began offering smart home-enabled security systems, starting at $240.
The company also plans to implement some Asimov-esque restrictions for its surveillance drones. Amazon will use geo-fencing technology to limit the scope of its UAVs’ observational capability. The firm stated drone footage captured outside the designated area would be obscured and deleted.
The Big Tech company has had plans to launch a digital panopticon for some time. Reuters stated Amazon filed its drone surveillance patent back in June 2015.
The e-commerce giant has not yet outlined rollout plans for its UAV observation program.
Amazon Drone Delivery Not Approved
Though Amazon possesses immense influence, it may be years before it darkens the skies with domestic surveillance UAVs. As of this writing, the firm has not yet received government approval to deliver packages via drone. Nevertheless, on June 5, the corporation said Prime Air drones would be making deliveries in “the coming months.” When fully established, Amazon intends for its UAV program to deliver sub-five-pound packages to customers within 30 minutes.
In April, Alphabet subsidiary Wing secured Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to begin testing its UAV delivery program. The Google sibling company intends to start transporting packages to residents of rural Virginia. If those deliveries are successful, the firm can apply to expand its services.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first revealed his intention to launch a UAV parcel transportation service in late 2013. However, FAA regulations mandating that drone pilots must keep sight of their vehicles during operation have hindered those plans. But with Wing paving the way, Amazon’s mechanical swarm will likely receive a tentative green light soon.
Autonomous Prime Vehicles are Coming
Even without UAVs, Amazon is still exploring ways to get its packages to customers faster. Last week, The Burn-In reported the corporation has been testing small, six-wheeled autonomous vehicles in Washington State. In March, the company deployed a host of Scout self-driving machines in the city of Silver Firs.
Using the robust amount of data gleaned from Scout’s sensors, the corporation created a digital replica of Silver Firs. The firm has since used that program to train its autonomous vehicles to operate in a variety of different road conditions.
Moreover, Amazon recently took steps to expedite deliveries by increasing its airline fleet. Last week, TechCrunch reported the corporation leased 15 Boeing 737-800 cargo aircraft from GE Capital Aviation Services. As such, the company now uses 20 planes to facilitate its logistics operations independently. Furthermore, the conglomerate intends to expand its fleet to 70 Amazon Air vehicles by 2021.