Apple Invents a Sophisticated Modem for Drones with Flight Paths & 3D Wireless Quality Signal Information
On the last patent application day of 2020, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to systems and methods of controlling drones. Apple's patent application is officially titled "EU Modem for Drones with Flight Path and 3D Wireless Environment Signal Quality Information."
Back in 2016 TechCrunch reported that Apple was putting a lot of effort to improve its Apple Maps data and design. Reportedly Apple planned to use drones to track changes and improve mapping data over time. It would apparently be faster to use a fleet of drones rather than vans with sensors."
Then in January of this year, Bloomberg posted a report titled "Apple Taps Drone Specialist to Lobby Washington on Aviation." The report noted that Apple retained Lisa Ellman, a partner at Hogan Lovells, to conduct the lobbying. Ellman leads the law firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice.
The company used drones a few years ago to help it collect mapping data. In December, it met with regulators about a proposed law that would require drones to sport virtual license plates."
Apple's patent application published today that covers drones lists 6 inventors. Not one has a LinkedIn account connecting them to Apple. Odder still is that 3 hours after all patent graphics have been published, Apple's 22 drone related patent figures have yet to be posted.
Below is a screenshot of what we get when trying to access Apple's patent figures about this drone. Is this simply a USPTO glitch this morning or a request by Apple to suppress the images from public view?
We'll update this report when and if the patent figures surface today.
Apple notes in their application that the use of various types of user equipment (UEs) using network resources continues to increase, as does amount of data and bandwidth being used by various applications, such as video streaming, operating on these UEs.
Among the UEs, mobile devices operating at elevated altitudes and moving substantial distances is becoming increasingly common. The popularity of drones, for example, has exploded in the past several years, and low-altitude personal transportation devices are likely to be developed and used in the near future.
The issues involving communications of the UEs with base stations (BSs) (also referred to as RANs), which are set up primarily for communication with ground-level UEs, coupled with the introduction of a complex new communication system engenders a large number of issues to be addressed both in the system itself and in compatibility with previous systems and devices, including those of modem performance.
Apple's first patent claim states the following:
"An apparatus of a drone, the apparatus comprising: sensors arranged to determine a geographic location and an orientation of the drone; a plurality of antennas configured to form a beam through which the drone communicates data and control signals with a serving cell using a carrier frequency; an application processor; and a wireless modem arranged to communicate with the serving cell through the antenna and with the application processor, the modem configured to provide to the application processor connection status information, the application processor configured to provide to the modem estimated wireless link quality along a flight path of the drone, the connection status information and estimated wireless link quality used during computation and control of a direction of the beam and the carrier frequency by at least one of the application processor or the modem based on the connection status information."
For details of Apple's highly technical patent application 20200413267 click here. The application was filed in June 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. In addition, it's unknown whether this will have an eventual connection to a consumer product of any kind, if it has a military application or if this is strictly a drone designed for Apple Maps.
Graphic Credit: The Apple Drone concept by "Mighty Things Co."