Apple is planning to fly drones, as well as use new indoor navigation features, to improve its Maps service, reports Bloomberg. The use of drones will help the Cupertino-based firm catch longtime leader Google, as it will now be able to capture and update map data faster than its existing fleet of mapping vehicles.
Apple has reportedly assembled a team of robotics and data-collection experts that will use drones to do things like examine signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under-construction. This way the team could rapidly update the Maps app and provide fresh information to users.
The Federal Aviation Administration granted Apple an exemption to fly drones for commercial purposes on March 22, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg. The approval grants the iPhone maker permission to “operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography.”
The FAA’s current rules however restrict commercial drones from flying over people and buildings, though Apple could fly the drones without restriction in countries with no commercial drone regulations.
In addition to this, Apple is developing an indoor mapping view using technology from its last year’s Indoor.io acquisition, one person familiar with the matter said. The indoor mapping view would allow iPhone users to navigate airports, and other high-traffic buildings like museums.
The reports further suggests that Apple is working on a feature that provides better guidance for changing lanes while driving. Both features are planned for release in 2017.