As mentioned yesterday during the Big Google Maps 3D parade, Google has indeed been using some airplanes to capture that stunning imagery used to create its next generation of mapping imagery.
While describing how Google Maps created the images used in its new 3D imagery, Google Earth Product Manager Peter Birch nonchalantly dropped the fact that Google has been using airplanes to photograph our terrestrial dwellings, describing how these planes are equipped with “custom, Google-designed camera systems.” While Google hasn't given any indication which cities will be the first to get 3D'ed once the new generation of maps start coming out, Google Maps Vice President Brian McClendon did confirm that the company had contracted airplanes to carry out the new edition of Google Maps.
McClendon continued, saying that Google had taken measures to ensure the public's privacy, but we've sorta heard that song and dance before. Google hasn't always maintained the most transparent practices when it comes to the information that it collects from people - whether those people know they're being tracked or not. Given the history, it's a legitimate concern of privacy advocates to be concerned about the possibility of Google tacking some wardriving software onto aircraft that's making passes over cities to collect imagery.
Then again, planes seem so antiquated by Google standards that it's a little surprising that it hasn't made any innovations with aeronautical technology more fitting of the future, like drones.
Google actually is interested in using drones. In the Q&A session following the "Next Dimension" conference yesterday, McClendon was asked if Google had any plans to use drones to collect imagery for Google Maps. He said that the possibility was still being evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration but then added, "That's probably a larger can of worms we won't get into here."
So there, Google has looked into the possibility of using drones but isn't really saying whether or not it would or could use drones. Anybody surprised by that vagary?
Given that drones can do everything from killing people to inspecting your backyard garden, the fact that Google is looking into the possibility of using them to collect even visual information should be of concern to you.