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Drones And Patents! – Patent


Well, many of us think that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or
“drones” are a modern development. However, UAVs have an
extensive history and can be traced as far back to the mid-1800s.
Back then European armies used unmanned balloon aircrafts to
deliver bombs. Although balloons may not be considered as UAV’s
today, but this fascinating idea led to some serious technological
advancements in the drone sector.

It was only after the end of World War I, that companies started
pushing drone tech with inventions like the Hewitt-Sperry automatic
airplanes and the Kettering Bug, an unmanned aerial torpedo.
Military units across the globe were amongst the first to recognize
the benefits drones could provide to wartimes strategies; hence
UAV’s were solely used for Military purposes then. Warfare is
certainly responsible for paving the way to the drone technologies
we have today. However, drones today are used in a multitude of
ways, from hobby racing and industrial safety to security
surveillance.

1208996a.jpg

figure 1 – The first Quadcopter Drone

In the recent times, Drones have been rapidly gaining
popularity. From precession crop monitoring systems, to delivering
help packages in menacingly flooded areas, the drones have got it
all covered. Whether drones are controlled by a remote or accessed
via a smartphone app, they possess the capabilities of reaching the
most remote areas with little to no man power needed and require
the least amount of effort, time, and energy.

Advancements in both the underlying technology and ancillary
functions have opened the doors for even more UAV innovations.
Although, research and development of any nature can be a lavish
affair; many companies around the world are investing in the
research and development of this sector. With investments of this
nature, inventions are conceived and to protect these inventions,
thousands of patents are filed. The exponential growth of UAV has
led to an upsurge in drone patent filings. New and existent patent
filings may offer a glimpse into a future with new uses of drones,
whether it is drones for tackling disease control or vacuuming up
ocean waste.

The drone patent activity began to pick up after 2013, when the
e-commerce giant, Amazon announced its 30minute delivery system via
drones. Amazon launched a drone-delivery service named Prime Air.
The rate at which Prime Air was conceiving and devising ideas, and
filing for patents, Amazon had to set up a whole new cell of IP
team. In the drone sector, Amazon has so far been awarded over 500
patents for concepts and technologies for drone delivery, including
patents for aircraft designs, safety security systems, methods for
transferring goods from the air to the ground, hive-like
fulfillment centers, among others.

1208996b.jpg

figure 2 – Various drone model series offered by DJI

Started in 2006, Dajiang Innovations (DJI), headquartered at
Shenzhen, soon became the top drone brand. As of March 2020, DJI
held nearly 77% of the US market share for consumer drones, with no
other company holding more than 4%. From being a photographer’s
favorite drone through to industrial and educational quadcopters,
DJI offers a wide range of drones. Not only is DJI a market leader
in drone tech but they are also the world’s largest patent
holders. With over 1000 granted worldwide patents, DJI’s patent
portfolio ranks at the top of the international top ten list. Their
patented technologies include assembly, imaging, sensors, pet
walking, photography and self-tightening rotors. France-based
Parrot SA, is one of DJI’s primary drone manufacturing
competitors and holds approximately 269 granted worldwide patents,
less than half of DJI’s current portfolio. It is evident that
the key to success in the UAV industry will be innovations and
securing those!

Some companies like Boeing have come up with thrillingly unique
drone ideas. In 2015, the US Patent and Trademarks Office approved
Boeing a patent application on “Rapid deployment air and water
vehicle”. The patent application describes a UAV that begins
its journey as a remote-controlled airplane that then plunges into
water, shedding some parts to be a practical submersible unit. The
UAV can also be potentially recovered with a possibility of
component reuse.

Drones are also being used for entertainment purposes.

1208996c.jpg

figure 3 – Drone 100 – a spectacular light show of quadcopter swarm
performance organized by Intel and Ars Electronica

Disney is one of the most active companies in this space, and
has filed for a number of drone patents focused on entertainment.
Synchronized lights shows, floating projection screens, and drone
puppeteers have all been considered by the entertainment giant.

Drones are not just a fad – they are here to stay and the
technology is booming with no end in sight. The same cost and
efficiency benefits that have historically made drones attractive
to the military are now applicable for a broad spectrum of business
and civil government functions. We are just now touching the tip of
the iceberg in terms of harnessing the true power of drones for
business operations, and new ways of conducting business. As more
drone tech patents are being issued, it is important to engage
competent patent counsels to ensure that their technology is being
protected.

Whether you are an investor, general counsel, inventor or CEO
with an interest in UAV technology – protecting and optimizing your
IP portfolio is essential. Photon Legal can help you maximize your
patent portfolio with unmatched IP and technical excellence.

Image source –

figure1 -
https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/history-of-drones/

figure 2 -
https://www.walkbye.com.au/blogs/experts-speak/7-exciting-activities-to-do-with-drones

figure 3 -
https://www.suasnews.com/2016/08/ars-electronica-intel-present-drone-100-spaxels-linz/

Stay in, Stay safe and continue to work.

Originally published July 8, 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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