Apple to Participate in Pilot Program Allowing Expanded Operation of Drones [Updated]

Apple has applied to participate in a pilot program that would allow the company to operate drones in ways that are typically restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, according to Reuters.

dji mavic air drone

DJI Mavic Air

The report states that the U.S. Department of Transportation will announce 10 winning state or local government bodies for inclusion in the program today, and each has partnered with companies who will play a role in the tests. At least 200 companies are said to be vying to be part of the program.

The initiative, introduced by the U.S. government last year, will allow for a larger range of testing, including flying drones at night, over people, and beyond an operator's line of sight, within the United States.

The list of winners, which appears to have been determined, is said to include companies that plan to test drones for delivering packages, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, pipeline oversight, and for various uses at airports, but it's unclear what Apple's intentions will be if selected.

Back in December 2016, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple planned to use drones to improve Apple Maps. The company itself does not sell any drones, aside from those made by other companies like DJI and Propel.

Update: The FAA has revealed the 10 government agencies who will conduct flight tests, including North Carolina's Department of Transportation. Apple will reportedly be a partner in North Carolina's program, and plans to use drones to capture aerial images to improve Apple Maps.

Top Rated Comments

NinjaHERO Avatar
54 months ago
Drones are such an interesting thing. It's fun to watch how they integrate into different parts of business and society. I'm seeing lots of real estate agents using them to take amazing photos of the houses they are selling. Also for roof inspections after storm damage. We just used one to take a cool arial shot of our building. I wonder how long before they are buzzing around everywhere and driving us nuts? lol
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Porco Avatar
54 months ago
“a new pilot program”

I’m not sure if that counts as irony or tautology... maybe both?! :)
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
busyscott Avatar
54 months ago
Apple Maps would make sense...and since Apple doesn't make much sense these days, I'm putting my money on environmental monitoring.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zantafio Avatar
54 months ago
Three words: Apple Maps Drones.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bigsk8r Avatar
54 months ago
What other countries - Japan in particular - are doing with drones in agriculture is really amazing. Just one example...

I was in a summit meeting not long before the current testing rules were relaxed to allow some free UAV test zones, the biggest of which is over Northern Michigan. In those info sessions, it was highlighted how some Japanese farms were using drones and infrared to find where beetles and other insects were attacking crops.

Once the area is detected, it was mapped, margin added, and another drone or small aircraft deployed to crop dust just that area. The implications for reduced chemicals in the air and groundwater as a result of only treating the 10 acres that need it, rather than all 500 are more than significant. They are game changing for both technology advancement and environmental control.

I would not bet against Apple looking at this from many angles. Yes, Maps is certainly on someones radar, but there are dozens - maybe hundreds - of possibilities.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
trusso Avatar
54 months ago
I'm sorry. I'm probably being a party-pooper, but whenever I read articles lauding drones or smart-glasses or internet-of-things, I can't help but think of the slippery slope we're traversing. o_O

“There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.”


(Orwell, George. “1984.” )
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
m1 mac mini screen

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple Rumored to Announce 'Game-Changer' AR/VR Headset in January 2023

Friday June 24, 2022 2:52 am PDT by
Apple is "likely" to announce its long-rumored mixed-reality headset as soon as January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated. Concept render based on purported leaked information by Ian Zelbo In a detailed post on Medium, Kuo explained that Apple's headset will be a "game-changer" for the augmented-reality and virtual-reality market. Describing some of the headset's...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...