APPLE IS REPORTEDLY employing drones to improve its homegrown Maps service in a bid to catch-up with Google.
So says Bloomberg, which has heard from "people familiar with the matter" that Apple is dumping its camera-equipped minivans in favour of drones that can capture and update map information quicker.
According to the report, Apple will focus its efforts on examining street signs, tracking changes to roads and monitoring if areas are under construction. This drone-captured data will then be sent back to Apple staffers that will use it to quickly update Apple Maps, as the firm looks to challenge Google Maps' integrated Waze functionality.
The firm is said to be assembling a team of robotics and data-collection experts to manage the fleet and has reportedly poached 'at least' one person from Amazon's Prime Air division to lead the effort.
Documents obtained by Bloomberg show that Apple filed applied for a drone flight exemption with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 21 September 2015.
In a response, dated 22 March 2016, the FAA granted Apple approval to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography," according to one of the documents.
Besides its drone efforts, Apple is also looking to improve its indoor mapping capabilities so that users can navigate airports and other high-traffic buildings like museums and shops.
Bloomberg reports that the firm, in order to improve its indoor mapping expertise, last year acquired Indoor.io, a firm that specialises in indoor navigation. Apple has since confirmed the acquisition.
The firm also last year bought up GPS outfit Coherent Navigation, a firm that offers a "high-precision navigation service" which can be used in "agriculture, surveying, construction, mining, and oil and gas exploration".
Apple's new mapping features are expected to debut in 2017, and likely will arrive as part of iOS 11. µ
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