News Feature | February 13, 2017

Google Looks To Add Telepresence Drones To Its Repertoire

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Patented videoconferencing drone could shake up the work world.

Google has patented a telepresence drone that can be equipped with a screen or projector for videoconferencing — a development that could shake up the work world according to re/code. The patent, filed last year, is for a small telepresence drone that allows collaboration from remote locations. The application was recently updated.

The patented drone is designed for indoor use and can easily move from room to room. Drones can navigate in places a typical telepresence robot cannot, including navigating stairs and other challenges of floor plans. The patent claims remote users will “feel as if they are present, at the same location as that of the second users.”

The patent application describes a quadcopter drone with an H-shaped fame that can carry a rotating screen or projector and remain lightweight. It can also include an audio system for voice communication. It can be powered by pairing remotely to another device or by a smartphone docked to the drone to control onboard processing and the drone’s audio and video functions.

Designed primarily for remote collaboration among business colleagues, Google suggests it could be utilized by “a medical professional consulting with a patient and/or another medical professional at a different location,” or “an instructor providing instruction to students at remote locations.”

Google contends its drone would be easier to move around than a laptop, writing in the patent application, “Implementation of a mobile telepresence system on a relatively compact and operationally efficient airborne platform such as a quadcopter may provide significant improvements in, for example, speed, maneuverability, energy consumption and the like, facilitating access to spaces which may be otherwise difficult to access by a larger and less maneuverable platform.”

For now the new drone remains a conception and the question remains whether or not they would be successful. Drones tend to be noisy and cumbersome, and chances are they would be an interruption and distraction rather than an advantage, at least for now.