Interesting Patents: Sony’s Noise Cancelling Drones

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2021/0142776
Assignee: Sony

A new USPTO patent application from Sony was published regarding a means of operating a fleet of drones to provide noise cancellation in a specific area. 

According to the patent’s background information:
In certain situations of open areas (for example, restaurants, party places, parks, etc), it may be difficult to get the soundproof fixed infrastructure instantly to initiate a verbal communication (such as telephonic call, a conversation with nearby person). Further, the verbal communication or sound reproduction performed in the open areas may create a disturbance or nuisance for neighboring people. Thus, an advanced and intelligent system may be required which may provide a soundproofing solution on a real-time basis.”

What The Invention Would do

This invention seeks to enable a means of having a virtual noise cancellation barrier through a networked system of drones. The drones are equipped with the necessary audio equipment needed to cancel out the ambient noise of the environment and provide the users within the virtual barrier a noise-free zone. Such a system could be used to provide privacy in a previously public area, or help reduce noise in a loud area while trying to communicate with others. The real implementation of this technology could take many forms, from industrial applications in mines and factories to consumer applications in big cities. The ability to create a virtual noise barrier can be leveraged in many different ways and is sure to be widely implemented once the technology has matured enough.

About the patent application

This is a very complex invention, but when broken down into two parts it’s easier to understand how the overall system works. Before we analyze individual facets of the invention let’s establish some fundamentals of the system. This method is executed by a fleet of interconnected unmanned drones outfitted with speakers with the goal of surrounding and providing noise cancellation to a predetermined 3D area.

The first aspect of this invention is controlling the drones. These interconnected drones know where to go based on an image processing algorithm. The algorithm identifies the predefined 3D area from a real-time image data feed and sends corresponding commands to the connected drones to position them correctly. Through the use of the real-time feed, the fleet of drones is capable of following specific targets to provide a continual zone of noise cancellation.

The second aspect of this invention is noise cancellation. As previously mentioned, the drones are outfitted with speakers. Once the drones have been properly positioned, they use their audio capture abilities to process the ambient sound in a given area. The speakers equipped with the drones are then capable of creating audio signals that cancel the processed ambient noise resulting in virtual noise cancellation boundary.

One key element of this invention is how much data processing is truly required to accomplish both parts of this system, even before trying to integrate them. Processing image data to control drones as well as the processing and canceling ambient noise is a computationally-intensive process. Combining these two highly complex systems to work in tandem is no small feat.Written by John DeStefano, Technical Advisor
and Lauren Hawksworth, Marketing Administrator

May 13, 2021