Amazon Inc. has filed a patent application in India for multi-scale fiducials, which is essentially a mark or set of marks placed on an object to help an imaging system identify the said object, reports Business Standard. It will allow Amazon’s delivery drones or automated aerial vehicles (AAVs) to identify objects from varying distances to both avoid collisions and navigate better. It will also allow the AAVs to identify other moving objects in the sky such as other AAVs and airplanes.

The fiducials will have three or more scales, with one of them operating as the tracker and helping in target identification.

In a 2015 patent filing in the United States, Amazon mentions:

A multi-scale fiducial may have three or more scales, where the child fiducials are nested or otherwise linked by a relative position to the parent fiducials. Multi-scale fiducials may facilitate target identification and tracking at varying distances, potentially without the aid of a scale-invariant recognition algorithm. One application of multi-scale fiducials may involve target identification for autonomously controlled aerial vehicles.

In regards to how fiducials work:

Fiducials are optically recognizable features often used in computer vision applications. Common fiducials include grids of black and white blocks of a fixed size, which may be randomly generated. Applications for fiducials may include localization, tracking, and detecting the orientation of objects marked with these features, including robotics, printed circuit board manufacturing, printing, augmented reality, and automated quality assurance.

Note that this is just a patent application, and doesn’t guarantee that Amazon will received the requisite approvals to actually deploy it in India.

This development comes at a time when Amazon has upped the ante on its Prime Air drone delivery project. Earlier this year, the company was granted a patent for a shipping label, including a built-in parachute, by the US Patent and Trademark Office. A few months earlier, in March, the company made its first public drone delivery in the US, which followed the start of drone delivery trials in the UK in December last year.

Amazon’s drone safety patent

In June this year, Amazon had filed a patent application in India for propeller technology to improve safety of drones. The technology facilitates automatic detection of any contact or any imminent contact between the drone’s propeller and an object, including humans and animals such as pets. Once such a contact is detected a variety of safety features will be initiated to stop or rapidly reduce propeller rotation, move the drone away from the object, emit a warning note, among others.

Drone policy in India

In May last year, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had released a draft paper (pdf) with guidelines for obtaining a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and permission to fly a civil unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The DGCA cited increasing civil use of UAS for damage assessment of property and life in areas with natural calamities, for surveys, infrastructure monitoring, commercial photography, aerial mapping etc., as reasons for the requirement of guidelines. More here.

A couple of months back, DGCA said that it plans to introduce a remote pilot licence for operating drones, and that it will release draft norms for regulating the use of drones in a week’s time. It hasn’t followed through with it yet. Apparently, it made this decision after the draft Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) had been finalised in consultations with concerned ministries and security agencies.