Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Google buys high-altitude drone maker

Google is reaching for the clouds, and not the virtual ones.

On Monday, the company said that it had purchased Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude drone satellites, which will be used to take photos of the Earth and to connect people to the Internet.

"Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "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 news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While it may sound like a lofty goal, it's one that Google shares with a competitor. Facebook, recently acquired Ascenta, based in Britain, that makes a similar type of drone. Earlier reports had said that Facebook was in talks to buy Titan Aerospace.

The Titan Aerospace drones are unique because they are solar-powered and can fly for several years, according to the company's website.

Drones that can fly for long periods of time without having to land could be used to offer constant updates of images of the Earth, allowing a company like Google to update the photos in its maps platform.

Both Google and Facebook are also competing to try to connect more people to the Internet that live in places that are too difficult to reach with traditional wires and traditional Internet solutions. While satellites can deliver the Internet to sparsely populated areas, the cost can be very high to use data connections. Drones, in comparison, will be able to do it at a much lower cost.