Apple has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones and collect data for Apple Maps, according to Bloomberg. Apple continues to improve Apple Maps and we haven't heard much from people about its performance. Recent testing by folks at PC Magazine indicates Apple Maps may now even be better than Google Maps. Bloomberg reported Apple has assembled a team of robotics and data-collection experts who will use the drones to update its Google Maps competitor. Drones, a more mobile way for Apple to move than its current fleet of minivans, could examine street signs and roadways to update for construction and other new obstacles.
North Carolina, one of the states the Transportation Department authorized to conduct drone testing beyond FAA limits, is apparently working with Apple. Cupertino has revealed that it's using drones in the state to improve its Maps application, effectively confirming a Bloomberg report from way back in 2016 that said the company was putting a team together to capture mapping data with the use of UAVs. A spokesperson said in a statement that Apple collects "both aerial and ground images around the world to improve Apple Maps," and it will soon "begin to capture additional aerial images in select areas using drones." Since people are now more conscious about their privacy following high-profiles hacks and leaks, such as Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, the spokesperson also assured that Apple will take measures to ensure it doesn't publish sensitive data. "Apple is committed to protecting people's privacy including processing this data to blur faces and license plates prior to publication," he said.
Most mapping is done from the ground level, but Apple is taking to the air. According to a report from Bloomberg, the Cupertino company will utilize drones to improve its Maps service. According to the report, Apple is in the process of assembling a team of experts in the fields of robotics and data collection who will be tapped to lead the drone initiative. The group will use the unmanned aircrafts to capture landscape and road information from above. Apple plans to use the drones to pick up additional details like street signs.
Drones are becoming a regular occurrence in our society. Therefore, having the latest and most advanced technology is of the utmost of importance. DJI, a civilian drones and aerial imaging technology company, and Microsoft have announced a strategic partnership to bring advanced AI and machine learning capabilities to DJI drones. This partnership will assist businesses to harness the power of commercial drone technology and edge cloud computing. "As computing becomes ubiquitous, the intelligent edge is emerging as the next technology frontier," said Scott Guthrie, EVP, Cloud and Enterprise Group, Microsoft.
Microsoft has created and released a simulator for drone pilots to help them avoid destroying their toys while running machine learning experiments. Not unreasonably, Redmond has figured out that UAV-fanciers would like a way to generate training data for machine learning algorithms governing autonomous flight in a simulator, instead of having the toys buzz about in meatspace where hobbyists will need to take out their wallets every time they crash into a tree, or remortgage should they happen to collide with a litigious passer-by. Dubbed AirSim, the simulator for drones (and Microsoft plans for other vehicles to be supported soon) has been built on Unreal Engine, but is otherwise open source and available today on GitHub. It is designed as a platform for artificial intelligence researchers to gobble training data and experiment with their various deep learning, computer vision and reinforcement learning algorithms to achieve functioning autonomous vehicles. While an official Linux build is due in a few weeks, the current code base is cross-platform and supports hardware-in-loop with flight controllers – such as Pixhawk – directly interacting with the simulation environment.