For such a big company, Apple keeps its number of actual products fairly small. It makes computers, tablets, phones, smartwatches, and a handful of accessories. But that doesn’t mean it’s not working with plenty more cutting-edge tech behind the scenes.

As highlighted by Patently Apple, the US Patent & Trademark Office has published a patent application filed by Apple, describing a system for controlling drones.

Apple’s Drone Patent Application

The application, which was published on the last patent day (and the last day, overall) of 2020, describes, “an apparatus of a drone, the apparatus comprising: sensors arranged to determine a geographic location and an orientation of the drone; a plurality of antennas configured to form a beam through which the drone communicates data and control signals with a serving cell using a carrier frequency; an application processor; and a wireless modem arranged to communicate with the serving cell through the antenna and with the application processor.”

While that’s pretty densely technical stuff, the patent application details how the drone’s location, orientation, and flight plan in 3D space could be configured using messages exchanged between the drone’s processor and a modem.

Related: How To Prevent Drones Infringing on Your Privacy

The reason this is interesting is because it is one of the first times it’s been officially acknowledged that Apple is actively working on drone technology.

Don’t (Necessarily) Expect an Apple Drone

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple will eventually release a drone, however. It’s highly possible that this is used for Apple’s internal operations.

A previous TechCrunch report from 2016 said that Apple was considering using drones as part of its Apple Maps initiative. They could be used to update Apple’s mapping data. A January Bloomberg report also noted that Apple had recruited the services of a “drone specialist” to lobby Washington regarding aviation rules.

It is worth noting that Apple currently sells drone technology such as the DJI Mavic Air 2 UAV both online and through its physical, brick-and-mortar Apple stores. While that alone does not suggest the company has interest in creating its own line of drones, it does show that Apple considers there to be a crossover between its own customers and those seeking out drone technology.

Apple’s rival tech giants Amazon and Google (the latter through its Alphabet Wing subsidiary) both have ongoing initiatives involving drones. These primarily focus on the considerable potential of using drones as tools for carrying out deliveries.

Apple’s drone patent application was filed June 28, 2019.

Image Credit: Miguel Ángel Hernández/Unsplash CC

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