Google has outbid Facebook to buy a company that manufactures high-altitude drones, part of the technology giant’s efforts to bring internet access to far-flung corners of the world.
The acquisition of New Mexico’s Titan Aerospace for an undisclosed fee was announced on Monday night, just weeks after Facebook was reported to be interested in the company.
Titan Aerospace, which has around 20 employees, develops solar-powered unmanned aircraft that can fly non-stop for years hundreds of metres above the ground, beaming wireless signals to the ground.
Using high-altitude aircraft is seen as cheaper and quicker than installing wired telecoms networks in countries with little infrastructure and sparse populations. Titan Aerospace’s drones can also take pictures of the earth’s surface, potentially making Google’s mapping software more accurate.
“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” a Google spokesman said.
“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. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.”
Both Facebook and Google are racing to develop ways of connecting up the billions of potential users in developing economies. Last year,Google launched “Project Loon”, a scheme to build balloons that send signals to the ground, while Facebook recently bought the UK-based aerospace company Ascenta.
“At Titan Aerospace, we’re passionate believers in the potential for technology (and in particular, atmospheric satellites) to improve people’s lives,” a statement on Titan Aerospace’s website said.
“It’s still early days for the technology we’re developing, and there are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it’s providing internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited to learn from and work with our new colleagues as we continue our research, testing and design work as part of the Google family.”