Computer vision is key to Amazon Prime Air drone deliveries

To be truly autonomous, UAVs need to be able to 'see' the world around them.


For all of Amazon's grand plans regarding delivery drones, it still needs to figure out concepts we take for granted with traditional courier methods. Namely, figuring out how to drop off your latest order without destroying anything (including the UAV itself) during transit and landing. That's where advanced computer vision comes in from Jeff Bezos' new team of Austria-based engineers, according to The Verge. The group invented methods for reconstructing geometry from images and contextually recognizing environmental objects, giving the drones the ability to differentiate between, say, a swimming pool and your back patio. Both are flat surfaces, but one won't leave your PlayStation VR headset waterlogged after drop-off.

The project's Konrad Karner notes that the neural network is scalable and can run on "several thousand" computers in parallel to give the drones the instantaneous info they require for making safe deliveries. "The drone will not just see the world around it, but understand its properties," Karn says. Helpful when all of the onboard tech in the world won't help it communicate with or avoid the likely most common airborne object found flying at drone-approved altitudes: birds.