Google, already mapping our world and sending our texts and searching our Internet, is taking its eyes to the skies. The tech company announced Monday that it's acquired Titan Aerospace, a manufacturer of solar-powered drones.
It’s the same drone company Facebook was eyeing last month. While Google did not disclose Titan’s price, Facebook was reportedly offering $60 million before moving on and purchasing U.K. drone maker Ascenta for only $20 million. (Via Business Insider)
So what’s so special about solar-powered drones? Well, Titan’s drones could fly nonstop for up to five years, much longer than commercial drone flights today. Its 3,000 solar panels would charge up during the day and power on-board batteries for flight at night. (Via CleanTechnica)
According to Google, the buy is all about bringing aid and Internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the planet still currently offline.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Google says "It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation."
The company says Titan will work with Project Loon, an initiative hoping to bring Internet to rural areas through high-altitude weather balloons. On its website, Titan claims it can provide 1-gigabit speeds, faster even than most developed countries.
Beyond Loon, Google is expected to use Titan to greatly increase its Google Maps coverage and even help with an airborne wind turbine project. That’s a lot of innovative possibilities for Google, but some aren’t thrilled with the acquisition.
Gizmodo started its story, writing: "Google Bought a Drone Company, Which Isn't At All Creepy, Nope" followed by a more serious take: "It's hard not to worry that, in addition to connecting the world over, this means a lot more potential information at Google's fingertips."
On the whole, the Titan buy could be just another move in Google and Facebook’s battle for fresh customers. The tech giants are fighting to be the so-called 'first point of contact' for people without internet access, and Facebook reportedly has a similar plan to beam Internet to rural communities with Ascenta.
Airborne Internet could be the future. As The Verge writes, "The major issue is cost effectiveness: it usually takes land rights and construction to connect an area, and many spots don't have enough users to justify the cost."
The news just the latest in the burgeoning industry of unmanned aircrafts. Last month a federal judge struck down a ban on commercial drone use, and who could forget Amazon’s much-hyped delivery drone announcement?
With Facebook, Amazon and now Google entering the unmanned aircraft business, we'll wait to see just who will win what you might call … a game of drones.