First Google, now Apple?

According to reports, Apple has secured private aerial vehicles to take military-accurate 3D maps — that may be powerful enough to take footage through skylights and windows.

The technology is rumored to be able to scan objects down to four inches wide, and the military-grade equipment may be able to capture not just aerial views of cities, but probe further into the domestic arrangements of the general public.

The technology giant expected to soon announce new mapping technology to rival Google Maps, following Apple’s acquisition of Swedish C3 Technologies — an advanced 3D mapping business — last year.

It may be that the procurement of the aerial force will allow iPhone and iPad users to scan images that have previously been restricted to intelligence personnel, as the mapping technology is reported to be up to military standard — and C3 Technologies’s equipment has already been tested in cities across the world, including London.

Director of the Big Brother Watch privacy campaign group Nick Pickles told the Sunday Times that increased use of this technology would “take us over the garden fence”.

“You won’t be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures.”

Apple isn’t the only company exploring 3D mapping technology. Last week, Google admitted to testing similar technology, deploying a fleet of small airplanes equipped to capture three-dimensional images of several cities in the United States.

Google plans to release the first of their 3D maps by the end of 2012, and according to Reuters, the first ‘cityscape’ will be launched within weeks.