Innovation

Apple to use drones to improve Maps service, compete with Google

Apple recently gained FAA approval to operate drones, and sources say the company will use them to improve its Maps service. Here's what you need to know.

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Image: iStockphoto/Bestgreenscreen

Watch out, Google Maps: Apple is planning to use drones and a new indoor mapping system to improve its own Maps service, Bloomberg reported.

Apple currently uses a fleet of minivans with cameras and sensors to update Maps information. Using drones would allow the company to do this much faster, a source familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The drones could potentially analyze street signs, monitor construction areas, and examine changes in roads, the source stated.

The move is not a complete surprise: In 2015, Apple filed for exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly drones for commercial purposes, according to documents, which was required at the time. In 2016, the FAA granted Apple approval to operate a drone for purposes of data collection, photography, and videography, the documents stated.

In August 2016, the White House released guidelines for commercial drone operations, which restrict flying to primarily daytime hours, and require licenced pilots to operate the equipment and keep the drones within the line of sight. This could potentially limit Apple's Maps initiative; however, the company did agree to the guidelines, documents state.

Apple declined to comment to TechRepublic on the reported news.

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This news follows the White House's initiatives, announced in October, to promote integrating drones into the daily lives of consumers and businesses across the US. Commercial drones could generate more than $82 billion for the US economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years, according to industry estimates.

Apple is also developing a Maps feature that includes the inside of buildings, allowing users to more easily navigate around airports, museums, and other large buildings, Bloomberg reported. This makes sense, as Apple acquired indoor mapping platform startup Indoor.io in 2015.

Both features could be available as early as next year, Bloomberg reported.

Apple has made several moves to enhance Maps for enterprise users. Business travelers can use the OS X Maps app to create contacts, enable calendar operation, view locations in 3D, and find walking directions, as TechRepublic new editor Conner Forrest reported. Improving Apple Maps abilities for outdoor and indoor navigation could continue to help the app gain enterprise adoption.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Apple is planning to use drones and an indoor navigation system to improve the performance of Apple Maps, Bloomberg reported.
  2. In August, the White House released guidelines for commercial drone operations, which Apple will have to comply with in this new venture.
  3. The new features could potentially make Maps more useful for business travelers.

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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