As Amazon prepares its drone-based delivery service Prime Air for the United States, the company has been looking for ways to keep its drones safe while they’re flying to and from their destinations. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company has patented a plan that lays out countermeasures for potential threats ranging from computer hacking to lightning flashes to bows and arrows. GeekWire reports: The “compromise system” that Amazon’s engineers propose relies on an array of sensors to orient the drone based on the sun’s position in the sky, if need be. That’s in case the drone gets confused by, say, lightning or a muzzle flash. The system also provides for a mesh network, in which drones would check with each other and other data sources — including satellite signals — to verify the readings they’re following. If there’s a discrepancy in the data, the drone would tally up the verdicts from all of the sources available, then go with the majority opinion. The onboard compromise system would be designed to keep the drone on track even if someone tried jamming its communication system. And if the drone became completely disoriented, it would be programmed to land safely and broadcast its location to its handlers. Now, about those arrows: Amazon lays out a scenario in which an attacker shoots an arrow at a drone in the air. “The malicious person may be attempting to cause the UAV to fall to ground, so that that malicious person may steal or destroy the UAV,” the application reads. This is what Amazon suggests would happen: “The compromise module detects the presence of the arrow and generates the UAV compromise data indicating that a threat exists that may compromise the UAV. The fail-safe module terminates the navigation to the first computing device, and the fail-safe module directs the UAV towards the ground. In some implementations, the fail-safe module may be configured to direct the UAV to take evasive maneuvers, navigate to a safe landing or parking zone for inspect, and so forth.”
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