Sign up for the MACH newsletter

You have been successfully added to our newsletter.

You will be up to date with all our MACH updates, including special offers

A daily newsletter charting the future: From technology to the scientific breakthroughs changing our lives.

Amazon drone designed to self-destruct in emergencies. Here's why.

Breaking up in the air could help prevent injuries on the ground.

by Patrick Caughill, Futurism /
Amzaon Prime Air aims to deliver packages to customers using drones.Amazon

In brief: Amazon has been granted a patent for drone technology that allows the craft to strategically self-destruct in the event of an emergency. The system uses the drone's onboard computer to determine the safest course of action.

SECRET AGENT DRONE

Amazon is taking a page out of the spy genre in a newly-patented feature for its future fleet of delivery drones. Filings for a patent granted to the internet retailer show a self-destructing drone that is able to strategically disassemble in the air during an emergency to mitigate any potential damage from an otherwise fully-formed delivery drone, or as the patent describes it, “direct fragmentation for unmanned airborne vehicles.”

Perhaps the self-destructing drones will find a home in the recently-patented hive-like structure approved this past summer.

  Amazon / USPTO

While programming a self-destruct sequence may seem like a curious safety feature, having a crashing drone break into pieces before impact can reduce the chances for significant property damage or injury to people on the ground. The feature would use the onboard computing system to analyze conditions to determine the best course of action.

Related

An illustration included with the patent filing shows the device disassembling to drop pieces on empty patches of ground, in a small body of water, and safely crashing into a tree.

DRONE TECH

Amazon has big plans for its delivery drones that don’t involve ripping themselves apart in mid-air. The company was granted a patent in mid-October to allow drones to recharge electric vehicles, which would effectively give the world its first commercial roving fueling stations. And this is just one of the many innovative applications of drone technology that have emerged recently.

Another internet giant, Facebook, is deploying drone technology to beam the internetto underserved areas, like rural regions around the world and even disaster-stricken places, which could allow enhanced communication for those who need it most. Another drone could similarly deliver much-needed help in a pinch by flying Automated External Defibrillators (AED) directly to the scene of an emergency, long before EMS crews would be able to arrive.

Amazon simply being granted the patent doesn’t make the actual development of the self-destructing drone inevitable. While trials of the Amazon Prime Air delivery service have begun in the UK, there’s no clear timeline of when the company would start regularly delivering packages using drones.

"Amazon's New Drone Designed to Self-Destruct in Emergencies" was originally published by Futurism, LLC on Dec. 2, 2017 by Patrick Caughill. Copyright 2017. Futurism, LLC. All rights reserved.

Subscribe

Let our news meet your inbox.

FOLLOW NBC NEWS MACH ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND INSTAGRAM.

Subscribe

Let our news meet your inbox.
MORE FROM mach