Apple Plans to Use Data-Collecting Drones in Order to 'Catch Up' With Google Maps

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 1, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple is putting together a team of robotics and data-collection experts who will use drones, and "new indoor navigation features," to bolster and further improve the quality of Apple Maps. The move is said to be positioned as a method to catch up with Google, the longtime leader in the mapping field (via Bloomberg).

    The drones will be able to capture and update Apple Maps at a far quicker rate than Apple's collection of GPS data-collecting minivans, which began appearing in the United States in early 2015.

    In addition, a new feature is said to be coming to Maps that will let users view the insides of buildings, thanks to its and WifiSLAM acquisitions, and overall improvements will be made to navigation within the app.
    According to documents gathered by Bloomberg News, Apple already filed for an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to be able to fly drones for commercial purposes, and was granted approval to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography." According to current rules, Apple's drone fleet would be restricted from flying over people and buildings, would be designated to operate only in daytime, and could only be flown by licensed pilots.

    One of the pilots is said to have already been hired from Amazon's fledgling Prime Air program, and they will join the Apple Maps drone team at its base in Seattle, Washington. The indoor mapping initiative is said to be moving forward at the same pace as the drone fleet, with Apple's hope being to help customers navigate airports "and other high-traffic buildings like museums" using their iPhones. This feature, along with a Maps update that will provide users "better guidance for changing lanes while driving," is believed to launch next year.

    Article Link: Apple Plans to Use Data-Collecting Drones in Order to 'Catch Up' With Google Maps
  2. DaPizzaMan macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2016
    Anything and everything they do to improve Apple Maps is welcome, whether they are behind or not.
  3. NoNothing macrumors 6502

    Aug 9, 2003
    Apple's map UI with Google's data would be a nice merge. Google's map UI has become a complete FUBAR on both their web and native apps.
  4. Mac Fly (film) macrumors 65816

    Mac Fly (film)

    Feb 12, 2006
    Comparing drones to minivans for mapping is just poor reporting when it's clear vans are for street-view mapping.
  5. Amacfa macrumors 68000


    May 22, 2009
    Bezel-less Iphone. Awesome maps. Dark mode.

    2017 is going to be an awesome year
  6. wol macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2005
    With Apple's iPeepingTom-branded drones lurking around day&night, this will be a great boost for companies producing and applying fully reflective Window film:
  7. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    I'm sorry but if you need your iPhone to navigate the interior of an are just useless and sad. There are things called signs that have worked for hundreds of years. If people looked away from their phones for five minutes they might learn how to move from room to room.

    And don't bother telling me Airports are hard to navigate...I've been to many Airports all over the world and in the US. I've never had a problem finding my way. They are not hay mazes.
  8. freediverx, Dec 1, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2016

    freediverx macrumors 6502a

    Feb 19, 2006
    Apple doesn't need drones. What they need is to pay for up-to-date satellite imagery like Google does. This would be a pretty bad situation if Apple were a tiny start-up with limited capital. But it's sad and embarrassing that the world's largest company by market cap is too stingy to pay for current satellite images.

    In downtown Miami, for example, Apple Maps still shows numerous city blocks as parking lots where we now have high rise condos, hotels, and retail developments (one of which will soon host Apple's largest store in Florida.) Some of these satellite images are over five years old.


    Here are Google's and Apple's map views of the Met3 building completed two years ago:


  9. al256 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2001
    I'm honestly not sure anymore how many Apple products I'll be using in the next two to three years. Better map data isn't going to change that either.
  10. iapplelove macrumors 601


    Nov 22, 2011
    East Coast USA
    They have their issues we can all be honest with that. But imo they still make the best hardware with software despite their recent setbacks.
  11. toph2toast macrumors 6502a

    Feb 24, 2011
    100% agree with this. Just wondering if the indoor mapping initiative might have more to do with augmented reality vs. actual navigation. Maybe...
  12. nfl46 macrumors 604


    Oct 5, 2008
    This is great. Apple Maps can only get better each year.
  13. Supermacguy macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2008
    How is it they can get an exemption? And seriously, who needs "interior maps"? Buildings have signs and floor plans. IMO, people walking and texting or mapping are as hazardous as texting drivers.
  14. Kabeyun macrumors 68020


    Mar 27, 2004
    Eastern USA
    How about both? Satellites are good at mass data collection but can't do some of what's described in the article.
  15. FelixDerKater macrumors 68030


    Apr 12, 2002
    Nirgendwo in Amerika
  16. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    I keep wondering why there isn't a coding effort to "average" all mapping data. In other words, compare "our" mapping data to Googles and all others considered good and take note of where "their" data differs from "ours." For example, if "our" data plots a point of interest at X but 7 out of 8 of "theirs" plots it 5 blocks away, integrate "their" collective plot into "our" data (and potentially note that as something to verify on the next pass of the mobile vans).

    When 'their" data and "our" data all plots anything at the same point, we take great confidence that our data is sound. Where it differs, we flag "our" data and seek to "get it right" ASAP.

    Or another view of the same: I'd love a mapping app that plots the point I seek as viewed by various mapping (data) sources. In other words, show me where Apple Maps thinks "it" is, where Google Maps thinks "it" is, etc. When all sources agree, I can confidently trust what any one of them is telling me. When they disagree, I don't waste my time blindly following my favorite to a point where whatever I'm seeking may or may not exist. Too often, I trust a mapping app that doesn't get me to where I want to go. Fire up the other mapping app and it knows the right location... but I wasted time trusting the first app.

    Either way, the concept is the same. If the over-arching objective is getting us users to points on a map as reliably as possible and the underlying data of mapping apps can be suspect, give us a better way of gaining confidence that what our favorite mapping app is telling us is accurate.

    If I'm trying to book a flight or hotel, there are apps that "shop" various sources of data for me to show me where to get what I want for the lowest price. Why not this same kind of thing for mapping: "shop" various sources of mapping data to get me the most accurate plots and/or identify when any one I like most conflicts with others that are also good?
  17. TonyC28 macrumors 65816


    Aug 15, 2009
    Sounds like the drones will be rather limited if they can't fly over buildings or people, but every little bit helps.
  18. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68040


    May 18, 2009
    Because Google is going to stop working on their Maps?

    Why on earth is Apple still pouring so much money into Apple Maps? What is the end game? It's not one of their primary products, Google will have an advantage for the forseeable future, and even diehard Apple fans like me prefer Google Maps over Apple Maps.

    It's not going to help you sell products, it's not going to generate significant revenue. It's just a waste of time and money.

    Stop, and put the money elsewhere.
  19. 2010mini macrumors 601

    Jun 19, 2013
    It's not about need, it about efficiency. Here's a scenario: your plane just landed and it was announced your connecting flight has been changed to a different terminal. Normally you would exit the plane and start looking for the signs of how to get to your next flight. But with this... BEFORE the plane even docks, you already have clear instructions on how to get to your next flight.
  20. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    What's shocking is that Apple has better Updated satellite photos in some areas I travel, more accurate Traffic, and better directions in some cases. I am really starting to see the attention they are putting into their maps.

    They still have a long ways to go, but the attention is great to see, and noticeable.
  21. Glideslope macrumors 603


    Dec 7, 2007
    A quiet place in NY.
  22. freediverx macrumors 6502a

    Feb 19, 2006
    My point was that Apple should resolve their map product's most glaring and long standing deficiencies before they invest in adding new gimmicky features with questionable real world benefits. Apple Maps is years behind competing products in the accuracy of their satellite imagery and the solution requires neither years of data gathering nor application of trendy new technologies. All it requires is for Tim Cook to loosen his death grip on the company's coffers and pay for current satellite data.
  23. Zaft macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    interior directions with google maps has helped me at the mall only. Its nice to see what stores are on which floor.
  24. SoN1NjA macrumors 68000


    Feb 3, 2016
    the pool
    The only reason I sometimes use Google Maps is because their aerial photography is clearer, and they sometimes have more restaraunts on their map.

    But I love Apple Maps, I only use it and recommend the hell out of it. The design and functionality are great. I love taping the types of places it can find for you, the colorful circles.
    Just wish it had offline maps so if I'm on vacation I can find McDonald's without burning my data.

    Their printed turn by turn directions are also great, nice and large and clear so you don't have to read the small text MapQuest likes to use.
  25. vertical smile macrumors 68040

    vertical smile

    Sep 23, 2014
    It would be nice if Apple just buys the Waze app, and replace Apple Maps with it. At least for driving, Waze is so much better than Apple Maps.

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