Drone-Equipped Autonomous Car Among Ford’s Slew of 2016 Patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Ford approximately 1,500 U.S. patents to Ford employees so far this year; this includes an invention for equipping autonomous vehicles with drones.

The manufacturer’s system deploys a drone from an autonomous vehicle to map the surrounding area beyond what vehicle sensors can detect. Vehicle passengers control the drone using the car’s infotainment or navigation system, Ford explains.

“At Ford, we are fully engaged in the current climate where inventions and outside-the-box thinking are being produced rapidly,” comments Tony Lockwood, Ford’s manager of the virtual driver system for autonomous vehicle development. Lockwood and fellow Ford employee Joe Stanek were granted the patent for the idea.

“Ultimately, customers benefit as we open ourselves to new ideas and advance mobility using emerging technologies,” Lockwood adds.

“We are living the innovation mindset in all parts of our business across the globe,” adds Raj Nair, executive vice president of product development and chief technical officer of Ford. “Our employees are delivering exciting new technologies for our customers at record levels. As an auto and mobility company, this is an exciting time, and our employees are aggressively advancing emerging technologies and increasing our mobility patents at record levels.”

Ford previously teamed with DJI and the United Nations for the DJI Developer Challenge, which aims to create drone-to-vehicle communications using Ford SYNC AppLink or OpenXC. The technology could allow United Nations first responders at natural disasters to deploy drones from the cab of a Ford F-150 truck.


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