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I'm trying to locate prior art for US9688399 ("Remotely operated surveillance vehicle management system and method with a fail-safe function"). The prior art would have to be dated before September 19, 2013. I've found non-patent references that read pretty closely on most of the claims, but it would be helpful to find a reference that explicitly talks about claim 16.

Summarily, claim 16 talks about a system in which a drone/UAV is essentially rented out to different remote users. When a remote user requests to control the drone/UAV for a specific block of time, the system verifies an authorization level of the user before granting the request.

This sounds very similar to technologies that the U.S. military has used for years in UAVs; I've found literature that discusses how control of a UAV (e.g., the Predator drones) switches between different remote teams during different stages of a flight (e.g., one team controls the UAV during a surveillance mission and control switches to a different team to perform the landing process). The literature also mentions that the control channels for the UAV are always encrypted. While I think this is probably implied anyway, it would be great to find some art that explicitly states that an authorization level for a team that is requesting control is verified before the switchover takes place.

In response to the first comment, the full text of the patent can be found here. Also, I've pasted the text of claim 16 below:

  1. A method for providing remote users temporary access to a surveillance vehicle in substantially real time comprising: providing a surveillance vehicle carrying one or more surveillance devices;

    providing the output from the surveillance devices to a plurality of remote viewers;

    providing a control management system;

    providing a mission manager with failsafe control over the surveillance vehicle interposed between the control management system and the surveillance vehicle;

    receiving a request at the control management system from a first remote user to control the surveillance vehicle during a first period of time;

    determining an authorization level for the first user making the request; receiving control commands at the control management system from the first user according to the determined authorization level during the first time period;

    operating the vehicle in accordance with the control commands received at the control management system from the first user during the first time period and while the mission manager has failsafe control over the vehicle;

    receiving a request at the control management system from a second remote user to control the surveillance vehicle during a second period of time;

    determining an authorization level for the second user making the request;

    receiving control commands at the control management system from the second user according to the determined authorization level during the second time period; and

    operating the vehicle in accordance with the control commands received at the control management system from the second user during the second time period and while the mission manager has failsafe control over the vehicle.

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  • This is a well thought through prior art request. It would be convenient to readers if you could link to the patent and perhaps quote, in the question, claim 16 in its entirety.
    – Eric S
    Apr 26 at 22:12
  • Thanks for the feedback. The patent can be found at this link: patents.google.com/patent/US9688399B1/en?oq=US9688399 I hit my word limit in trying to paste the claim, so I'll see if I can paste it into the original request above... Apr 27 at 23:04
  • In the US military cases do you know if the commands from assorted users are routed through a single command system on their way to the drone ? That seems key.
    – George White
    Apr 28 at 1:34
  • The only prior art cited in the rejection was from a group of MIT inventors patents.google.com/patent/US20120237028A1
    – George White
    Apr 28 at 2:22
  • Since the patent has already been granted the practical uses for newly surfaced prior art that I can think of would either to be to combat/ neutralize an accusation of infringement or in an IPR proceeding to attempt to invalidate the patent. Can you tell us you ultimate goal?
    – George White
    Apr 28 at 4:25

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I am uploading an image of most of claim 16 as amended to get allowance from the Image File Wrapper as seen on Public PAIR. (see the whole thing in Public PAIR.)

To get allowance the applicant needed to amend claim 16 to include the "interposed, control management system, etc." language. The other independent claims already required the commands to go through a command center. This is an example showing that claim 1 is not always the broadest claim in an application.

This contributes to the answers becasue it shows the key element used to convey patentabity and any search for new prior art should focus on this feature because it is the feature the examiner did not find.

page from File Wrapper showing claim 16 marked up to amend

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  • Thanks for the comments! I did another round of searching and finally found a reference that explicitly discusses how authorized connections are formed when control of the drone is handed over from one control station to another—and the two control stations even appear to be under the umbrella of a single control management system. Regardless, the comments were helpful. Thanks! Apr 29 at 4:47

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