Internet access is what keeps companies like Facebook and Google in business. The more people who have internet connectivity, the more demand there is for their services. That’s presumably why Google is working on Project Loon (solar-powered balloons that boost internet signals), and why TechCrunch is reporting rumors that Facebook may buy Titan Aerospace, a company that specializes in solar-powered drones. According to those in the know, Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to bring Internet access to remote areas, beginning with Africa.
The pride of the Titan Aerospace product line is the Solara 50 and Solara 60, two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are capable of near-orbit altitudes. Thanks to the on-board solar panels, these fancy drones can fly for five years without needing to land. According to the company, Solara can perform all the functions of an orbital satellite, while being cheaper and more versatile.
As a major backer of the Internet.org initiative, Facebook is keenly interested in bringing affordable Internet access to the 5 billion people in the world who still lack connectivity. Many of these people live in remote areas that will never be attractive to the likes of Comcast or other internet service providers. So companies like Facebook and Google have to think bigger. That’s where pseudo satellites like the Titan Aerospace Solara come into play.
“The idea has been to position these aircraft above the airspace that the FAA regulates in the U.S. Class A airspace ends at 60,000 feet stateside, and above that the U.S. doesn’t regulate, Fortune pointed out last summer. That means the only issue in launching these in the U.S. would be the initial climb. In other parts of the world, the laws will, of course, vary,” reports TechCrunch.
Sources say that Facebook is willing to pay $60 million to acquire Titan Aerospace and build 11,000 of these Internet-toting drones. For those keeping track, this price tag pales in comparison to the $19 billion the company shelled out for WhatsApp.
All images via Titan Aerospace