Apple Maps Team Reportedly Deploying Advanced Drone Fleet To Battle Google Maps

Apple Maps got off to a rocky start when it launched in September 2012, and its early high-profile failures resulted in the ouster of Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS. While Apple Maps has improved significantly over the past four years, many consider the mapping application to still be behind market leader Google Maps when it comes to mapping data and performance.

According to a new report, Apple is looking to catch and perhaps surpass Google thanks to the use of aerial drones that will be able to quickly monitor changes to roads, record new construction and even identify road signs. The use of drones would reportedly be faster and provide a much greater amount of data than the fleet of sensor-laden minivans that Apple is currently using to source its mapping data.

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Bloomberg confirms that Apple already filed for an exemption with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2015 to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography." According to documentation filed with the FAA, Apple plans to use drones manufactured by market leader DJI along with Aibotix.

Sources for the publication also indicate that Apple has nabbed at least one member of Amazon’s Prime Air division (which is tasked with developing drones that will deliver packages directly to customers).

While Apple has not directly commented on its intention to use drones from mapping data, it did confirm that it acquired last year in an effort to expand into mapping and tracking inside large buildings -- think museums, airports, government buildings, universities -- using a bevy of sensors already found in modern iPhones (i.e. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, pressure sensors).

Apple is also said to be working on in-car navigation updates that will include “better guidance” when changing lanes en route to a destination.