Apple reportedly intends to use drones to take on Google Maps by improving its Maps app, which has been problematic since its launch four years ago. According to Bloomberg, the iPhone maker is developing a team of experts to use drones to improve Maps.

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Chicago Bike Guide iOS app screenshot by Steven Vance on 2013-04-10 10:41:38

Will drones really help Apple?

Currently, both Apple and Google use cars and vans mounted with cameras for their mapping apps, but the use of drones will allow the Cupertino-based firm to better examine and monitor construction areas, roads, street signs and more. Also cars have to be manned by a person (self-driving cars are not ready yet), so the scale of such a team is limited. Use of drones will extend the reach of its data collection efforts, says 9to5 Mac. Also drones can go some places cars can’t go, and they can also bypass pedestrian traffic.

The iPhone maker was granted permission to operate an unmanned aircraft system in March. To assist in running its drone team based in Seattle, Apple has reportedly hired at least one employee from Amazon’s Air division.

However, there are a few concerns. For example, there are several regulations regarding when and where these drones can be used for commercial use. So it will be interesting to see where Apple’s drones will be used.

Also Apple’s Eddy Cue said in an interview in August that maps are a big investment that offers little reward. It requires big money to operate an efficient mapping service with no clear direct revenue stream. However, the world’s most valuable company certainly has enough of a bank balance to make it work.

Other mapping features in the works

Along with drones, the company is also said to be working on improving car navigation, better assistance for changing lanes while driving, and new inside views for its Maps app. According to Bloomberg, the new indoor mapping view will allow iPhone users to easily navigate through airports and museums.

To help build the feature, the company has reportedly acquired Indoor.io. It must be noted that Google already offers similar indoor features. In 2013, the company also acquired WiFiSlam – a startup with a focus on indoor navigation. Apple’s new map features are expected to be released next year.

Since the app’s problematic launch, Apple has constantly been trying to improve it by updating data, improving search results, adding a mode for navigating public transit systems and opening the service to third-party services like Uber. The drone initiative and other features that the company is working on are a continuation of this effort, but it remains to be seen how effective will they will be in competing with Google Maps.