Apple given permission to use drones to improve Apple Maps

Drone delivering

In Reno, Nev., they will test airlifting life-saving defibrillators to patients.

Alphabet's Project Wing will deliver packages in Virginia.

Asked why the Transportation Department had not selected Amazon or DJI, Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeff Rosen told Reuters that the projects had gone through a rigorous review process.

A who's who of technology and aviation companies won US approval to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people's tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers' drones won't hit crop dusters.

Flying taxis are the most high profile of the current drone development projects, with Google co-founder Larry Page's Kitty Hawk unveiling its designs in March and Uber holding a conference for its Elevate programme this week. Deliveries in the Memphis proposal involve only aircraft parts at the airport and the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. Intel and two GE subsidiaries are partners for the Memphis project.

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.

Chao mentioned several specific areas where drones can help: agriculture, commerce, health care, disaster assistance, emergency response and human transportation. The data collected will help the USDOT and the FAA craft new regulations. It's partnering with mapping startup AirMap, Qualcomm, drone startup Matternet, and the University of California San Diego Health hospital system to deliver patient blood samples, among other things. This could be a precursor to the company's recently announced plan to develop flying taxis. "I do think it's a big step forward". Apple will apparently be a partner in North Carolina's program and thinking of using drones to seize aerial images to improve Apple Maps services.

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No federal funds will be spent on the drone program, though each company will share data with the FAA and the Department of Transportation.

But Amazon, which wants to offer drone parcel deliveries, has not been chosen. So far, regulations don't permit flights over people or over long distances, and the agency has been cautious about approving waivers to allow such operations.

Despite Amazon's absence, this is the USA government's boldest move yet related to drones.

"The state of Kansas has a rich history in the aviation industry and will be a strong asset to this pilot program", said First District Congressman Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).

The integration program, announced last October, is created to allow state, local and tribal governments to test more complex types of flights than are allowed under current regulations.

Chao said companies that didn't win should keep the federal government abreast of their work, because there were "no losers" after yesterday's announcement. The applicants listed companies they would partner with in the experiments, and the winners may have a head start at the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs the young industry expects to create. Reno hopes a single drone could save 28-34 lives a year by being able to deliver live-saving materials across the city, day and night.

One of Flirtey's drones, delivering a 7-Eleven order.

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