Yep, you read that right. In 2016, Ford Global Technologies filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a drone that could be stored and launched from the trunk of a vehicle. The patent application was made public just last week.
In the patent documents, there are a few diagrams included that explain the drone’s functions and how the operator would control or command it. The drone, along with what Ford is calling the “drone deployment system” would be stored in the vehicle while a remote server would be housed in a separate location. In regard to the increase in safety this would provide, the remote server would allow an outside operator to send alert signals, deploy the drone, and command the drone to follow the host vehicle.
The drone itself is a quadcopter design meaning it has four rotors that it uses to lift itself, move from point A to B, or to simply hover in the air. It is equipped with lights, sirens, and a camera. Hard to say what the final design will look like but the example shown above is a stripped down and likely very cost effective option they have presented.
Why do I need a drone stored in my vehicle you might ask? It is without a doubt an extra level of safety if you ever find yourself stuck on the side of the road in conditions that are less than ideal. One of the biggest benefits of drones, as a whole, is that they are unmanned and this is something that Ford had in mind when they developed this system.
For example, say you are involved in a collision at night and have to park your car along the side of the road. Of course you have your hazard flashing tail lights but, typically, they are only noticeable to other drivers at a shorter distance. Cue the drone to be deployed and provide a larger perimeter in which other motorists will be notified to stay clear of you and your stopped vehicle. If your tail lights were damaged in said accident the drone can provide lights without you having to fumble around in the dark trying to place roadside flares.
The diagrams in the patent documents show what looks to be a Ford Fusion but Ford says this idea isn’t limited to one model or just cars for that matter. It’s designed to be possible on trucks and SUVs as well.
We’re looking forward to where and when this technology ends up in a production vehicle and how big of an impact it will have when it does.