Apple could be using drones to improve Apple Maps data

Apple is putting a lot of effort to improve its Apple Maps data and design. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the company plans to use drones to track changes and improve mapping data over time. It would apparently be faster to use a fleet of drones rather than vans with sensors.

Apple already admitted that mapping data is a harder problem than the company first anticipated. You need to update maps all the time and fix mistakes as quickly as possible. Roads change and new buildings keep popping up. That’s why the company now works with thousands of employees in India and elsewhere to work on mapping data.

But that’s just one part of the equation. Having a big moderation staff is useless if you don’t have fresh data coming from all over the world. Companies like Google and Apple rely on user reports and vehicles driving around multiple countries.

Bloomberg found a 2015 document from the Federal Aviation Administration. The administration granted Apple a license to “operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography.” It also says that the company plans to buy drones from DJI and Aibotix for this operation.

Now, it’s unclear if Apple already started using these drones in the U.S. and in other countries. As it’s not a user-facing feature, nothing stops Apple from using drones without telling its users.

In other news, Apple also acquired for indoor mapping. Bloomberg got an official confirmation from Apple. Apple has already made another acquisition of an indoor mapping company and is playing catch up on this front.

In Google Maps, you can already find maps of popular malls, museums and public buildings. Apple wants to provide indoor maps as well as an indoor positioning system that would take advantage of your iPhone’s sensors to locate you within a building. It would go beyond a simple GPS dot.

All of this is great, but I still miss an equivalent of Street View in Apple Maps. This feature is quite useful when you want to see what a building looks like. I’ve been using Apple Maps every day for a couple of years now, and it’s the only thing that makes me open Google Maps every now and then.