Apple May Soon Use Drones To Improve its Maps; Indoor Mapping To Also Be Launched

By Ryan Grant, Parent Herald December 02, 06:00 am
Reports say Apple may soon use drones to gather data for its map service.
(Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The built-in map of your Apple devices may soon get an overhaul, thanks to drones. Apple Inc. is reported to be planning to use drones to improve its Maps app and beat its closest competitor, Google Maps, and is working on an indoor mapping service.

Apple is currently putting together a team with expertise in robotics and data collection, Bloomberg reports. The team will be responsible for operating the drones to capture information that would make Apple Maps up-to-date and accurate.

The drones will examine street signs, monitor areas under construction, and keep track of changes to road systems. Data gathered will then be used to update Apple Maps and bring fresh information to users.

In line with this Apple has asked the US Federal Aviation Administration to allow it to fly drones for commercial purposes, documents that Bloomberg obtained show. The request was granted in March this year. It's not yet known, however, when exactly Apple will begin using drones.

Apple Maps faced complaints when it launched in 2012 because of location errors. Apple had admitted it didn't yet have the technology to absorb data from various sources and use them to update the app. It also acknowledged that maintaining a mapping app by constantly updating information was harder than the company expected.

At present, Apple gathers data for the Maps app using minivans equipped with cameras and sensors. The company is also working with thousands of employees in different parts of the world to map data.

As well as using drones to keep Apple Maps updated and accurate, Apple is said to be developing indoor maps to help users navigate their way within enclosed structures like buildings and museums. It will use technology from the startup Indoor.io, which Apple acquired in 2015.

Although the planned changes are aimed at helping Apple Maps keep up with, if not beat, Google Maps, some believe Apple still needs other essential features. TechCrunch says that Apple Maps needs, for instance, an equivalent of Google Maps' Street View, which gives users a clearer picture of what their destination looks like.

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