Apple Mysteriously Applied for Relaxed Govt. Regulations on Drones

Apple is apparently interested in using drones for one of its more mysterious upcoming endeavors, as a new report on a government drone program reveals.

The Cupertino tech giant has reportedly applied to participate in a new pilot program that would allow governments, corporations and other entities to perform tests beyond what’s currently allowed per Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, according to Reuters. The program was first launched last year by the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced 10 winning local or state governments that will host the experiments. Technology and aerospace firms, which have partnered with those governments, will reportedly play a role in the tests.

The winning communities include San Diego, California; Raleigh, North Carolina; Topeka, Kansas; Reno, Nevada; and Fairbanks, Alaska, Bloomberg reported. There’s currently no word which corporate partners have also won application to the program.

As part of the program, the winners will be allowed to carry out more extensive testing which is currently barred by aviation regulators. They might including flying drones at night, over people on the ground, or outside of a pilot’s line-of-sight.

Along with Apple, other firms that have applied to the program include Amazon, Alphabet, Intel, Qualcomm, and Airbus SE. All in all, about 200 companies applied to be part of the program.

These firms have a vested interest in the nascent technology — Amazon, for example, has its own plans to eventually use drones to deliver packages on a widespread scale. A U.S. official told Reuters that the winners detailed projects ranging from environmental monitoring to pipeline oversight.

Why Would Apple Need This Program?

It’s not clear what projects Apple may have in store that involve drones. Back in late 2016, Bloomberg reported that the Cupertino firm wanted to use unmanned aircraft to improve its Apple Maps platform.

Apple doesn’t currently sell any first-party drones and there hasn’t been any indication that it intends to do so in the near future.

Similarly, beyond Apple Maps, it’s unknown if Apple has plans to use drones to improve its platforms — or even leverage the technology to create new ones. It’s all obscure at this point in time, which is no surprise considering Apple’s penchant for secrecy.

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