Apple to Use Drones to Improve Mapping Data

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. plans to use drones and new indoor navigation features to improve its Maps service and catch longtime leader Google, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cupertino, California-based company is assembling a team of robotics and data-collection experts that will use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera and-sensor ladened minivans, one of the people said.

Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added.

Apple is also developing new features for Maps, including views inside buildings and improvements to car navigation, another person familiar with the efforts said. The people asked not to be identified talking about private projects. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

This is welcomed news. While I still get the occasional wrong turn or directions to drive through a dead end street, Maps has been getting better and better since it’s initial release. More resources and innovative ways to collect road and traffic data can only help.

As for the indoor mapping, this seems interesting. It’ll be nice to go into, say, a large mall or maybe a hospital, and be able to use maps to find your way around.

Good news all around, hopefully we see the fruits of this labor soon.