Apple given permission to use drones to improve Apple Maps

Apple wants official permission to test new drone program

Cupertino was among a handful of companies seeking permission to carry out experimental drone flights beyond the limits now enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon", the secretary added.

"Technology is developing so rapidly that our country has reached a tipping point", Chao said. Researchers hope to make drone deliveries a routine part of life in the state, though feedback from local residents will determine the technology's future. It's not yet clear what Apple is interested in achieving with its drone ambitions, although companies such as Amazon have been outspoken about their desire to pursue drone deliveries. Real estate agents could provide prospective buyers with aerial views of properties, oil refineries and pipeline operators could inspect facilities, and of course Amazon could whisk products to your home for near-instant gratification of consumer impulses.

Drones will fly high over Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium by City of Memphis for inspection, public safety, and even medical deliveries. The 10 projects for pilot drone test chosen from 149 applications are in Tennessee, California, Nevada, North Dakota, and other states including Kansas.

FedEx, GE and Intel drones will inspect aircraft and runways at Memphis International Airport (coincidentally FedEx's US operations hub).

FedEx won't be dropping any emergency supplies of toothpaste on your front porch, though.

Scott Brockman, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority President and CEO, said his team wasted no time preparing a proposal to compete among the dozens interested.

Other companies involved include Intel, Qualcomm, and a number of drone companies like Fortem and Flirtey.

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Reno, Nevada-based drone delivery company Flirtey will work with four of the 10 cities on its project to carry defibrillators to heart attack patients.

"Zipline has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and made thousands of deliveries overseas", Zipline Chief Executive Keller Rinaudo said in a statement.

One name was noticeably absent from the list of approved companies: Amazon.

At least 200 companies spanning 149 applications are vying to be part of the program, a USA official said.

Such modes are seen as essential for widescale commercial applications such as the package delivery systems that Amazon, Walmart and other retailers are working on. No federal funds will be spent on the program. And customers in Virginia could be awaiting Alphabet Inc.'s flying devices to get goods they ordered.

The US drone program has been created to assess how drones can be regulated and worked into US airspace without borking normal aviation; Amazon offered to help but didn't get the nod, which is kind of ironic given it probably flogs more drones than any other tech firm out there.

The current legislation lags behind the technology in many countries, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom, with most novel uses ruled out by regulations that prohibit the flying of drones over people and out of the line of sight.

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