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Why Is Apple Interested in a Special U.S. Drone Program?

May 9, 2018, 4:20 PM UTC

The U.S. Transportation Department is set to announce participants in a new drone program. And one of the rumored hopefuls stands out from the rest.

Apple is one of several companies vying for participation in the drone program, according to Reuters, which cited sources who claim to have knowledge of the companies hoping to participate. The program will allow the companies to conduct drone tests in ways that are usually banned, including flying the drones at night, at distances where they can’t be seen with the human eye, and over people. The Transportation Department is expected to announce 10 state or local governments that will host the tests. Companies have signed on with their local governments in a bid to participate.

The other rumored participants in the program all seem to make sense. According to Reuters, Amazon, Intel, and Qualcomm are all vying for participation. Airbus is also involved. The news service’s sources added that Boeing and Ford are also interested in being a part of the program.

Amazon would likely want to participate to extend its work in drone deliveries. Intel and Qualcomm have both developed chips that power drones, and Airbus and Boeing are already in the air travel industry. Ford is working on a variety of advanced transportation and mobility projects. In other words, all of those companies would easily fit into the program.

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Apple, however, is decidedly an outlier here. The company has not made any public statements about plans to be involved in drones and it’s largely stayed out of the burgeoning market, other than to sell drones made by other companies in its retail stores. Its inclusion here is nothing if not interesting.

Of course, the simplest and perhaps most boring of reasons Apple is participating is because it wants to build out its Maps service. Using drones could help the company achieve that. But the notoriously secretive Apple could be testing drones for any number of reasons. And what else the company might be up to is unknown.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on its possible participation in the drone program. But you can bet if Apple starts testing drones the rumors about what it might be up to will being pouring in.