Apple using drones to take on Google Maps


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's an Apple drone!

Expect to be saying that more in the future, as Apple launches drones to improve its Maps app, which has long been thought of as playing second fiddle to Google's more robust map app. Well, now Apple is aiming to finally close that gap, and they will be using drones to do it.

In IT Blogwatch, we get a little lost.

What exactly is happening? Shrey Pacheco has the background:

Apple may be planning on take on Google’s extensive mapping services by using drones. According to a report...the company is putting together a team of robotics and data collection experts...this team will use drones to capture and update its map information faster than its existing fleet of minivans.

And how will the drones create a better Maps? Mark Gurman and Alan Levin have the details:

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 data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users.
Since Apple Maps launched, the company has improved the app by...updating data, adding a mode for navigating public transit systems, improving search results, and opening the platform to outside services such as Uber...and OpenTable...The drone initiative is a continuation of this effort.

Any details on how exactly Apple is going to use these drones? Not a whole lot, but Mike Murphy tells us what he knows:

Apple was granted permission to fly drones by the...FAA in March...The company’s original application to the FAA does not go into much detail...saying just that they would do “aerial data collection, photography, and videography.”
Apple’s...application says it intends to use 11 different models of drones—some quadcopters, some fixed-wing drones—to capture information...There is no indication that Apple intends to build its own drones.

Aren't there a bunch of restictions on drone flying, though? Lee Mathews knows what's up:

There are several caveats: drones must be flown by professionals who remain within the line of sight, flying is mostly limited to daylight hours, and...drones aren’t supposed over people or buildings.

So how is Apple supposed to update Maps with those limitations? April Glaser might know:

Right's illegal to fly drones over populated areas and near airports, although the rules are still being written...This month the FAA is expected to release a proposal for new rules that would dictate how drones will be allowed to fly over people. If Apple truly does hope to use drones to improve Maps, the company will...have to get involved in the FAA rulemaking process.

Is Apple improving Maps in any other ways? Tonya Riley fills us in:

More than...enhancing its outdoor maps, Apple is...advancing an indoor mapping system for public places like museums and airports, though that probably won’t involve drones whizzing by your face.

So when will these changes start to roll out to users? Jake Smith has that info:

If all goes to plan, Apple is expected to launch the new...features in 2017. Apple is...focused on improving in-car navigation, as well. One feature will offer better guidance for changing lanes while driving.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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