Twitter was granted a patent last week for an unmanned aerial vehicle (read as drones) which can be controlled by users and take pictures and videos. The development was first reported by CNBC.
Twitter responded to the publication’s queries with: “Two words: Drone selfies.” Twitter has been working drones since the Cannes Lions Prix awards in June 2014. During the event, there were several drones which were flying about capturing pictures and videos called “Dronies”. You can check out all the pictures on this handle.
The patent though, is called Messaging-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and was filed by Twitter’s engineers Ya-Ting Wang and Wayne Robins. Here’s the abstract:
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carries a camera, sends data from the camera, and receives commands. The UAV is connected to a messaging platform. Pictures or video clips received from the UAV are selected and placed in messages broadcast by an account associated with the UAV. Video footage from the camera is live-streamed in a card-type message. Account holders of the messaging platform may control the UAV with commands embedded in messages and directed towards an account associated with the UAV. Controllable elements of the UAV include UAV location, camera orientation, camera subject, UAV-mounted lighting, a UAV-mounted display, a UAV-mounted projector, UAV-mounted speakers, and a detachable payload. UAV control may be determined through democratic means. Some UAV functionality may be triggered through aggregated engagements on the messaging platform. The UAV may include a display screen and/or a microphone to provide for telepresence or interview functionality.
This means that users can use a drone from Twitter and command it to go to a place, take a picture or a video. Twitter mentions in its notes that the company could use the drones for covering events and use it for promotional purposes which translates to ad-dollars for Twitter.
This again underscores the need for a proper and comprehensive policy on usage drones. Apart from the operational problems of setting up such an infrastructure, there ought to be a few places that the should be designated as no-fly zones. Or there should be some regulations on where and when Twitter can fly these drones. Remember, Housing got into trouble when it flew over the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai earlier this year. Housing’s engineers were questioned by the police and the drone, which was fitted with a high resolution camera and memory card which had around 300 pictures, was seized.
Drone regulations in the US
In October, the US Government announced that it would make it mandatory for all unmanned aircraft to have registration. The US Transportation authority is working on creating a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
In February, the FAA issued a number of guidelines for the commercial use of drones. The agency also offers rules for small UAS under 55 pounds (~25kg) conducting non-recreational operations. This rule limits flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.