Are Twitter Drones On The Way?

Compared to Google and Facebook, Twitter isn’t known for its “moon shots” -- i.e., seemingly farfetched projects like driverless cars and global WiFi. But the social giant has given some thought to at least one wild idea: drones that fly around taking photos and videos, which can then be broadcast directly from people’s Twitter accounts. 

Twitter filed a patent for just such a system, last year, but it was only recently published online. “An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carries a camera, sends data from the camera, and receives commands,” patent No. 20150362917 reads. “The UAV is connected to a messaging platform.” 

“Pictures or video clips received from the UAV are selected and placed in messages broadcast by an account associated with the UAV,” the patent continues. “Video footage from the camera is live-streamed in a card-type message.” 

Of course, Twitter is no stranger to live-streaming technology. Earlier this year, the company acquired live-streaming leader Periscope. Along with social media startup Niche, Periscope set Twitter back by about $86 million, according to a regulatory filing.

Yet Twitter’s prospects have changed significantly since last year, and now may not be the best time for quixotic moon shots. Since his recent return as CEO, Jack Dorsey has stressed the importance of product simplicity and strategic streamlining. How drones fit into that equation is not at all clear. 

Only complicating matters, the U.S. government is now requiring owners of consumer drones to register their gadgets. Yet if the consultants at Frost & Sullivan are correct, drones and other “smart machines” are destined to increasingly disrupt a number of sectors, including communications and media. 

Amazon’s drone ambitions are well known, and Facebook is testing autonomous drones that can bring Wi-Fi connections to remote areas.



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