- Amazon's patent for drone technology will perform what it calls "surveillance as a service," the latest in a series of steps by the company to develop security and surveillance tools.
- The patent, filed in June 2015 and granted earlier this month, is for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that "may perform a surveillance action at a property of an authorized party." The patent covers still images, video, infrared imaging, thermal scanning, night-vision sensors and audio.
- According to the patent, homeowners could request one-time or regular surveillance of their property, with alerts for activity. The drones would monitor a geofenced area, and all data captured outside that area would be obscured.
There's no guarantee "surveillance as a service" features will come to fruition. Companies often patent technology that never reaches consumers.
The patent pitches the technology as a home security system, although the use of drones is likely to attract questions about how much the cameras and monitors are picking up.
Even if the drone network doesn't take off, the patent illustrates Amazon's growing focus on surveillance tools.
In 2018, Amazon purchased Ring, the "smart doorbell" company that sends video feeds to customers. Earlier this month, CNET reported that Amazon gave more than 50 police departments access to Ring footage. Ring also supports the controversial real-time safety network, Neighbors.
Echo and Alexa smart speaker devices have also come under fire for capturing recordings of users in their homes.
Most controversially, Amazon has marketed facial recognition software, known as Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies around the country, with high-profile trials in Orlando, FL. Two proposals that would have restrained the company's use of Rekognition failed at a recent shareholder meeting, although lawmakers and public advocates have vowed more scrutiny over the technology.
Cities and governments have started pushing back against surveillance technology.
A drone-based surveillance system would likely face similar backlash, keeping Amazon squarely in the center of the debate over privacy and data security.