Amazon Protects Drone Deliveries With “Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones”

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Amazon Protects Drone Deliveries With “Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones”

Shipments from Amazon, Public.Resource.Org January 4, 2010

Shipments from Amazon

All drone pilots have had to accept the fact, at one time or another, that crashes happen. When crashed happen, we cross our fingers and hope that our precious drone comes out relatively unscathed. It’s a weird feeling, praying for your rotor to break, but hey, better a rotor then a frame, right? Losing a drone or damaging a major component is bad, so bad that we actively come up with strategies to minimize risk.

Now imagine if you will that you are responsible for an entire fleet of drones, like fleet of drones that back Amazon Air Prime. What is Amazon Air Prime?

Amazon Prime Air is a cargo airline and conceptual drone-based delivery system currently in development by The cargo side will be based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio. The hub will begin operations in April 2017 and will quickly expand under a $1.49-billion expansion plan with 40 Boeing 767-300F’s and 200 daily takeoff and landings.

Amazon Prime Air

Prashob Menon

Prashob Menon

Back in December, 2013, Prashob Menon tried to estimate the number of drones Amazon would need for Amazon Prime Air based on “shipping data from Amazon and a few assumptions around the amount of time a drone could stay operational per day.”

Based on shipping data from Amazon and a few assumptions around the amount of time a drone could stay operational per day I developed the following projection for 2016 – 2020. Keep in mind that it only includes shipments made within North America, where the drones are likely to be first deployed (if at all). In addition, I assumed a straight-line ramp up of drone shipments to 86%, which is the percentage of products Mr. Bezos indicated could be shipped via drones.

The obvious thing to note is the sheer volume of drones required for Mr. Bezos’ plan. Assuming even a tepid start in 2016 Amazon would still need 85 thousand octocopters to fulfill just 17% of its North American orders. As more of Amazon’s total North American shipping moves towards drones the firm’s needs will grow to 450 thousand by 2020, or about one drone for every 1,000 people in North America.

How many drones does Amazon need?

Yes, that’s right, even back in 2013, Prashob was estimating Amazon would need about 85,o00 drones  to fill “just 17% of its North American orders,” and by 2020, Prashob believes we’ll need 450,000 drones, or roughly one drone for every 1,000 people.

If you were concerned about the operational risks of flying your personal drone, pretend for just one second that you were responsible for 450,000, 250,ooo, or even just 100,000 drones. With one or even two drones, you can use a “strategy,” but as you start to scale up the number of drones in play, you start to need patentable countermeasures.

Besides government regulations, bad weather, weight restrictions, and all the other issues that plague Amazon’s budding drone delivery service, the company must also face the prospect of thieves shooting down drones to steal their packages.

It’s a problem that Amazon has been working on since at least 2014, when it filed a patent for “countermeasures” to protect drones against everything from gunshots to hackers breaching its navigation software.

Amazon Patent Tips Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones

The patentable countermeasures Amazon has underdevelopment need to protect them from attacks on the software side as well as the hardware side. On the software side, Amazon is working on a number of interesting technologies …

The patent describes two main lines of defense for the drones. The first are electronic systems designed to detect signal jammers or other hacking attempts, including a backup communications interface if the primary one is compromised. Much like current wireless routers and cell phones, the system would automatically select whichever frequency is least prone to interference.

Amazon Patent Tips Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones

and on the hardware side is just as interesting …

Guarding against physical threats like missiles, meanwhile, is where Amazon’s engineers really get creative. If a drone is hit, it could deploy an airbag, foam, a parachute, a bumper, or configure one or more rotors for autorotation. And the precautions don’t stop with guns: Amazon is preparing for a scenario in which someone could use a bow and arrow to attempt a drone shootdown. Even if the arrow misses, the drone could still detect an anomaly and immediately land in a safe area.

Amazon Patent Tips Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones

Regardless of the number of drones you are responsible for, I think we can all agree that the first step to safely operating a drone is drone training and drone certification (FAA Part 101 and FAA Part 107). If you are ready to take the next, contact Drone Universities today.

Amazon LogoAbout Amazon, also called Amazon, is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company that was founded on July 5, 1994, by Jeff Bezos and is based in Seattle, Washington. It is the largest Internet-based retailer in the world by total sales and market capitalization. started as an online bookstore, later diversifying to sell DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audiobook downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. The company also produces consumer electronics—notably, Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo—and is the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS). Amazon also sells certain low-end products like USB cables under its in-house brand AmazonBasics.

Amazon has separate retail websites for the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico. Amazon also offers international shipping to certain other countries for some of its products. In 2016, Dutch, Polish, and Turkish language versions of the German Amazon website were launched.

In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization, and was in the third quarter of 2016 the fourth most valuable public company.

By |2017-08-31T15:23:36-08:00April 5th, 2017|Drone Delivery, Drone Services, Drones|Comments Off on Amazon Protects Drone Deliveries With “Bow-and-Arrow-Proof Drones”

About the Author:

Sam Estrin
I'm an avid drone enthusiast and part-time drone blogger living outside of the DC area. I track drone news and write editorials and timely drone news stories that I find interesting. If you like my stories, you can follow me on Twitter or visit me at LinkedIn. If you'd like me to write for your drone oriented publication or blog, you can contact me at