Should drones be used for data collection in addition to deliveries?
While delivery services and regulators are still trying to figure out the details of safe drone delivery, Amazon.com is already thinking about what data the drones can collect while dropping off packages.
Amazon has patented technology that allows a drone to scan and collect data from houses it passes on its flight path, according to Inc. Among the hypothetical uses for the technology are notifying customers about a damaged roof on their home or recommending a service to attend to sick-looking trees in a yard. The patent suggests text, email and on-site notification as viable ways to communicate the findings to the customer.
It’s not clear where the lines should be drawn in terms of privacy. If a truck drove by collecting information about individual homes and contacting the inhabitants, for instance, that might set off some red flags. People do seem, however, to have grown accustomed to the use of photographs of their properties on websites like Google Maps.
It’s not hard to imagine this technology collecting more in-depth data at the point of drop-off or even by peering through windows, or delivering recommendations based on fly-by data to in-home Alexa devices.
Since the idea of last-mile delivery by drone entered the public mind, Amazon has continued to churn out high-concept drone-related patents. Some of its other concepts are a beehive-style structure to house idle drones and using trains as mobile maintenance and launching stations.
Drone research beyond Amazon is also pushing the technology in new directions. Researchers at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, for instance, recently created a drone capable of landing on and taking off from vertical surfaces like walls. Such an innovation could offer a new solution for the problem of where drones could “park” when between deliveries.
And other companies, especially delivery services, have been taking strides in drone delivery innovation as well. Earlier this year, UPS began testing a delivery truck that doubles as a mobile drone base.
- Amazon’s Delivery Drones Could Scan Your House to Sell You More Products – Inc.
- Innovative vertical-landing drone can stick to walls like a fly – Digital Trends
- Amazon wants to build a network of mobile drone maintenance and delivery platforms – The Verge
- Amazon’s vision for the future: delivery drone beehives in every city – The Verge
- Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see potential in Amazon and others using drones as data collection vehicles? What types of data would be acceptable to collect? At what point would you draw the line?