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

MacRumors

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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 Indoor.io and WifiSLAM acquisitions, and overall improvements will be made to navigation within the app.
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.
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
 

Cineplex

macrumors 6502a
Jan 1, 2016
746
1,975
I'm sorry but if you need your iPhone to navigate the interior of an airport...you 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.
 

freediverx

macrumors 6502a
Feb 19, 2006
985
920
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.

Example:

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




 
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toph2toast

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2011
576
365
I'm sorry but if you need your iPhone to navigate the interior of an airport...you 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.
100% agree with this. Just wondering if the indoor mapping initiative might have more to do with augmented reality vs. actual navigation. Maybe...
 

Kabeyun

macrumors 68020
Mar 27, 2004
2,247
3,836
Eastern USA
Apple doesn't need drones. What they need to do 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.
How about both? Satellites are good at mass data collection but can't do some of what's described in the article.
 
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?
 

TonyC28

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2009
1,562
3,950
USA
Sounds like the drones will be rather limited if they can't fly over buildings or people, but every little bit helps.
 

NovemberWhiskey

macrumors 68040
May 18, 2009
3,012
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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.
 

2010mini

macrumors 601
Jun 19, 2013
4,103
3,688
I'm sorry but if you need your iPhone to navigate the interior of an airport...you 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.
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.
 

freediverx

macrumors 6502a
Feb 19, 2006
985
920
How about both? Satellites are good at mass data collection but can't do some of what's described in the article.
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.
 

SoN1NjA

macrumors 68000
Feb 3, 2016
1,970
1,926
the pool
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.
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.
 

vertical smile

macrumors 68040
Sep 23, 2014
3,938
5,139
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.