Amazon won a patent today for a voice-controlled drone small enough to fit in your pocket. Imagine an Echo flying off your kitchen counter to act as an Alexa-powered aerial assistant.
The technology, Amazon says in its filing, may be better suited for police videos than dashboard-mounted cameras. It can help find lost cars in parking lots, say, or lost children in a grocery store; it can rubberneck for someone waiting in line to buy tickets to see how many others are waiting ahead.
The drones would respond to voice commands or instructions from an app and return to wherever the drone operator currently is.
If, for instance, the user is looking for her car while the drone buzzes around the parking lot looking too, the two can find each other again once the task is completed. The patent mentions an app that will show images produced by the drone and be used to control it when out of speaking range.
Amazon envisions quickly deployable drones that are small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. The patent includes an image of a small drone perched on an officer’s shoulder, reported GeekWire.
The filing goes on to describe how a voice-powered drone could be used to assist police. For example, a police officer may tell a drone "follow me" or "hover" to record video at a traffic stop.
If a foot chase develops during a traffic stop, for example, the officer can command the UAV to follow the suspect so that he can attempt to cut the suspect off in the cruiser. Similarly, if there are two or more suspects, the officer can command the UAV to follow one of the suspects, while he gives chase to the other. This can enable the officer to apprehend one suspect, and then he or backup officers can apprehend the other suspect guided to his location by the UAV.
Amazon also envisions consumer applications for the drone technology that would help people find lost things by searching for an RFID tag or even locating lost children by using facial recognition software.
The UAV can receive a "find Timmy" command, which can include the "search" routine, and possibly an "identify Timmy" subroutine to locate a person identified as "Timmy." In some examples, Timmy can have, for example, an RFID tag sewn into his clothes or a bar code printed on his clothes, for example, to facilitate identification.
The idea is that the drone acts as a personal assistant for the user. Although many of the use cases Amazon describes aren’t yet legal because they require flying a drone out of line of sight or flying in populated areas, the FAA should have more defined rules for commercial drone applications figured out within the next five years.
So far, most of Amazon’s drone innovation has focused on delivery, not consumer tech. The company has patents for aerial recharging stations and a method for a drone to ride on another delivery vehicle, for example. Amazon is currently testing its drone technology in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.