Apple is Joining UAS Integration Pilot Program to Collect Aerial Imagery and Improve Apple Maps

The tech giant is joining a slew of new test projects authorized by the Transporation Department last week, with hopes to aerially improve Apple Maps.

Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Apple will soon be working with the state of North Carolina under the Trump administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program to operate drones for aerial imaging purposes in order to improve Apple Maps, according to a report by Engadget.​​​

As we reported last week, the Department of Transportation added new territories and companies to the steadily growing set of entities authorized to test unmanned aerial systems and vehicles across the nation. These test projects, ranging from food delivery to mosquito detection, are intended to broaden the scope of drone integration in the U.S. and prepare for the seemingly inevitable reality of substantial UAV traffic in our skies. For Apple, these loosened restrictions mean more data collection in order to improve the Apple Maps application.

An Apple spokesperson reportedly said in a statement that the company collects “both aerial and ground images around the world to improve Apple Maps,” and that it would shortly “capture additional aerial images in select areas using drones.” Now, this is certainly a departure from our previous coverage involving both drones and Apple, and one that makes complete sense. If Apple wants to get ahead of main map app competitor Google, implementing ingenious yet practical strategies like this is viewed as the next logical step. 

In terms of the inevitable privacy issues involving a swarm of Apple drones whirring above North Carolinians, the company maintains it won’t encroach upon citizens in the slightest. “Apple is committed to protecting people’s privacy including processing this data to blur faces and license plates prior to publication,” said the spokesperson.

This is simply the latest in a growing series of entities taking advantage of the Transportation Department’s drone systems authorizations. If this leads to the best possible smartphone navigation app, we hope the locals can endure a bit of drone traffic for the rest of us.