Bell Textron have taken DJI to court for patent infringement and won, I do rather think this points to the skewed American patent system that seems to allow companies to patent anything that might have prior art. The case was bought in Bell’s home town as it were. Strikes me that now they have won this one, they could go after all Blue sUAS companies. All of them do these things. DJI can afford to pay Bell Textron, some others maybe not.
These are the interesting bits:-
The ’909 Patent generally “relates to a control system for causing a vehicle to have a selected position or selected velocity relative to a reference vehicle.” Ex. A at 1:6-9. Figure 1 of the 909 Patent illustrates the concept of a drone following a moving boat:
Id. at Figure 1, 3:46-47 (describing aircraft 11 in Figure 1 as an “unmanned tiltrotor-type aircraft”).
Although Figure 1 is illustrated with an aircraft following a moving boat, the ’909 Patent recognizes that an aircraft may follow other types of objects. Ex. A at 3:37-41 (“Though the system of the invention is described in use with an aircraft/ship combination, the system may be used for any combination and number of land, air, or sea vehicles or other moving objects where it is useful to control the position and velocity of a vehicle relative to a movable point or vehicle.”).
No. 8,078,395 (“the ’395 Patent”), entitled “Control System for Automatic Circle Flight.”
The ’395 Patent “relates particularly to a system for achieving and maintaining a circular flight path around a selected fixed or moving point.” Ex. C at 1:7-9. The ’395 Patent explains that “[i]t is often desirable to fly an aircraft in a path that describes a closed-loop ground track around a particular area of interest, such as the site of an accident or an area being searched.” Id. at 1:13-15.
“One of the benefits is that the aircraft maintains a distance from the area, providing for a continual line-of-sight from the aircraft toward the area of interest.” Id. at 1:16-18. One example of the ’395 Patent’s innovative system for achieving and maintaining a circular flight path is shown in Figure 4 of the patent:
Then they speak of hover hold
On October 20, 2015, the USPTO duly and lawfully issued United States Patent No. 9,162,752 (“the ’752 Patent”), entitled “Flight Control Laws for Automatic Hover Hold.” A true and correct copy of the ’752 Patent is attached as Exhibit D. By assignment, duly recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Textron Innovations owns all substantial rights to the ’752 Patent, including the right to sue and recover damages for all infringement. Ex. G. The ’752 Patent relates to “flight control laws for automatic hover hold.”
Finally vision sensors
On March 26, 2019, the USPTO duly and lawfully issued United States Patent No. 10,243,647 (“the ’647 Patent”), entitled “Aircraft Visual Sensor System.” A true and correct copy of the ’647 Patent is attached as Exhibit E. By assignment, duly recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Textron Innovations owns all substantial rights to the ’647 Patent, including the right to sue and recover damages for all infringement. Ex. H.
The ’647 Patent generally relates to an aircraft visual sensor system. Ex. E at 1:5-7.
The ’647 Patent recognized problems that existing aircraft faced. The ’647 Patent explains that “[t]here are many hazards that may arise during operation of rotorcraft and other aircraft, including collisions, contact with moving components (e.g., rotors, propellers, and jet engine intakes), landing on uneven, obstructed, or otherwise dangerous surfaces, and so forth.” Id. at 2:48-52. “For example, the rotors of a rotorcraft 100 (e.g., main rotor 120 and/or tail rotor 140) present a risk of contact with objects, such as people, animals, structures (e.g., buildings, powerlines), terrain (e.g., the ground and other landing surfaces), and so forth.” Id. at 2:52-56. “Moreover, many hazards may be difficult for a pilot to identify, as they may be outside the pilot’s field of view or otherwise difficult for the pilot to see.” Id. at 2:57-59. The ’647 Patent thus recognized a problem in the art and provided a solution to that problem through a “visual sensor system for detecting and responding to hazards during operation of an aircraft.” Id. at 2:59-62