It’s still unknown whether Apple will one day expand its range of high performing and incomparably cool products to the not-exactly-chopped-liver world of drones, but a patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office takes that tantalizing prospect one step closer to imaginable.
Yesterday, the US organization overseeing product rights and trademark matters granted Apple a patent for its application regarding drone controllers that DroneDJ first wrote about last year. As de rigueur in that particular art, the language in the approval is just as seriously wonky as that of the initial application, but its general thrust is that the Cupertino giant has developed systems for pairing and unpairing UAV controllers, and for craft tracking applications.
That research and development is dramatically short of a full-throated entry into the activity of drone production, of course. But the mere fact Apple is spending time and money to create and patent controller tech is enough for some enthusiasts to dream of a day the company takes a consumer UAV to market.
The Apple invention also involves tech used to switch signals connecting a drone from direct transmission from the controller to cellular networks when distances become too great to maintain contact, or UAVs enter obstacle-heavy areas where blockage becomes a problem.
It also covers other “embodiments” like computerized tracking or other interfacing systems that may necessitate signal swaps and reconnection.
“The techniques described herein may be implemented in and/or used with a number of different types of devices, including but not limited to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aerial controllers (UACs), a UTM server, base stations, access points, cellular phones, tablet computers, wearable computing devices, portable media players, and any of various other computing devices,” the grant reads.
The drone controller patent was issued to Apple under grant number US 20210352558 A1, which is being provided in full here for any curious readers who want to look it up at after following link to the page fails to function (per its design).
The original petition was registered in Singapore in May of 2020, then filed in the US last year. That activity, as well as yesterday’s patent grant, was first reported by Patently Apple, whose reproduction of the illustration from Apple’s application shows the signal handover between the drone from one controller to another.
According to the Apple-drafted summary, the drone controller system applies to:
Apparatuses, systems, and methods for pairing/unpairing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to/from UAV controllers (UACs). A UAV and/or a UAC may initiate, based on a triggering condition, a paring/unpairing of the UAV to/from a host UAC and receive, from a network, a configuration update that may confirm the paring/unpairing of the UAV to/from the host UAC. The triggering condition may include at least one of the UAV moving from a location designated as controlled by the host UAC, the UAV moving into a location in which the host UAC is restricted from controlling the host UAV, and/or the host UAC losing signaling capabilities. The configuration update may include at least one of a cause code, an identifier associated with the UAV, an identifier associated with the host UAC, an identifier associated with an unmanned aerial system (UAS).