Apple Plans to Use Data-Collecting Drones in Order to 'Catch Up' With Google Maps

Apple_maps_ios-9Apple is putting together a team of robotics and data-collection experts who will use drones, and "new indoor navigation features," to bolster and further improve the quality of Apple Maps. The move is said to be positioned as a method to catch up with Google, the longtime leader in the mapping field (via Bloomberg).

The drones will be able to capture and update Apple Maps at a far quicker rate than Apple's collection of GPS data-collecting minivans, which began appearing in the United States in early 2015.

In addition, a new feature is said to be coming to Maps that will let users view the insides of buildings, thanks to its Indoor.io and WifiSLAM acquisitions, and overall improvements will be made to navigation within the app.

Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added.

According to documents gathered by Bloomberg News, Apple already filed for an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to be able to fly drones for commercial purposes, and was granted approval to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography." According to current rules, Apple's drone fleet would be restricted from flying over people and buildings, would be designated to operate only in daytime, and could only be flown by licensed pilots.

One of the pilots is said to have already been hired from Amazon's fledgling Prime Air program, and they will join the Apple Maps drone team at its base in Seattle, Washington. The indoor mapping initiative is said to be moving forward at the same pace as the drone fleet, with Apple's hope being to help customers navigate airports "and other high-traffic buildings like museums" using their iPhones. This feature, along with a Maps update that will provide users "better guidance for changing lanes while driving," is believed to launch next year.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
51 months ago
Apple doesn't need drones. What they need is to pay for up-to-date satellite imagery like Google does. This would be a pretty bad situation if Apple were a tiny start-up with limited capital. But it's sad and embarrassing that the world's largest company by market cap is too stingy to pay for current satellite images.

In downtown Miami, for example, Apple Maps still shows numerous city blocks as parking lots where we now have high rise condos, hotels, and retail developments (one of which will soon host Apple's largest store in Florida.) Some of these satellite images are over five years old.

Example:

Here are Google's and Apple's map views of the Met3 building completed two years ago:




Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
Anything and everything they do to improve Apple Maps is welcome, whether they are behind or not.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
I'm sorry but if you need your iPhone to navigate the interior of an airport...you are just useless and sad. There are things called signs that have worked for hundreds of years. If people looked away from their phones for five minutes they might learn how to move from room to room.

And don't bother telling me Airports are hard to navigate...I've been to many Airports all over the world and in the US. I've never had a problem finding my way. They are not hay mazes.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
I'm honestly not sure anymore how many Apple products I'll be using in the next two to three years. Better map data isn't going to change that either.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
Apple's map UI with Google's data would be a nice merge. Google's map UI has become a complete FUBAR on both their web and native apps.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
Bezel-less Iphone. Awesome maps. Dark mode.


2017 is going to be an awesome year
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

iPhone 12 Pro Allows You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly Using LiDAR Scanner

Saturday October 24, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new LiDAR Scanner for enhanced augmented reality experiences, but the sensor also enables another unique feature: the ability to measure a person's height instantly using the Measure app. You can even measure the seated height of a person in a chair, according to Apple. When the Measure app detects a person in the viewfinder, it automatically measures their...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...

MagSafe Charger Teardown Reveals Simple Design With Magnets and Charging Coil Encircling a Small Circuit Board

Friday October 23, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
iFixit has today shared a teardown of Apple's new MagSafe charger for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. An X-ray of the MagSafe charger courtesy of Creative Electron reveals the internal charging coil surrounded by a circular arrangement of magnets within the puck. The only seam that iFixit was able to leverage to open the device was where the white rubber circle meets the metal rim,...

PSA: Non-iPhone 12 Models Charge Super Slowly With MagSafe Charger

Friday October 23, 2020 4:11 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a new $39 MagSafe Charger that's meant to work with the magnets in the iPhone 12 Pro models to charge them up at a maximum of 15W. The MagSafe Charger is technically able to be used with older iPhones, but it's not a good idea because the charging with non-iPhone 12 devices is so slow. We did two tests with the iPhone XS Max, draining the...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...