Amazon Gets Patent for Tiny Police Drones

They're adorable and potentially civil-liberty-violating
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2016 11:37 AM CDT
Amazon Gets Patent for Tiny Police Drones
Amazon says its tiny drones could monitor situations for their human cop partners.   (US Patent and Trademark Office)

In the future, a cop's partner could be a tiny, shoulder-mounted, voice-activated drone. The Seattle PI reports Amazon received a patent for an "unmanned aerial vehicle assistant" on Oct. 18. Illustrations from the US Patent and Trademark office show a miniature drone perched on a docking station on an officer's shoulder. The drone could ID missing children by scanning bar codes on their clothes, follow a fleeing suspect while an officer cuts them off, or run license plates, according to CNBC. Gizmodo notes the drone could also follow one suspect while the officer chases another. The drone would be controlled with voice commands, such as "follow me" or "hover."

The patent explains that the drones could be so small because their processors could be housed in their docking stations. But their size is exactly what concerns the ACLU. A technology and liberty project director with the group says the drones are so small they could monitor people without their knowledge and "make an end-run around the constitutional protections." But Amazon's tiny drones could also have uses beyond policing. The patent states they could be used to help people feel safer while walking alone at night, record extreme-sports stunts, or figure out how many people are ahead of someone waiting in a long line. It's unclear if Amazon will actually produce its unmanned aerial vehicle assistants. (More drones stories.)

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