Facebook looks to buy drone maker

By Danielle Middleton topicIcon Internet News

Facebook in talks to buy Titan Aerospace

The social network has been in talks with drone makers Titan Aerospace to purchase the company for $60m (£36.5m), which is $18.94bn less than Facebook spent on purchasing Whatsapp last month.

Facebook is one of the main backers of the Internet.org initiative, the company which aims to bring the internet to the remaining 5 billion people around the globe without access. In purchasing Titan Aerospace, Internet.org will acquire the technology it needs to build unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and use them to blanket areas of Africa that are currently without access to the internet.

Who are Titan Aerospace?

Titan Aerospace is a private company with research and development facilities in New Mexico. Funding has so far been raised through seed rounds, that have brought in enough money from investors to finance the Solara 50 and 60. These models of the Solara drone can be launched at night using power from internal packs, and when the sun rises each can store sufficient energy to climb up to 20km above sea level; where they are able to remain for five years.

According to Tech Crunch, once Facebook has purchased Titan Aerospace, it will build 11,000 of the company's Solara 60 model - an atmospheric satellite or drone, that is both cheaper and more versatile than an orbital satellite. The Solara 60 is capable of monitoring weather, disaster recovery, collecting images of the Earth and enabling communications.

How will Internet.org use Solara technology?

At present, 1.2 billion people have access to the internet around the world. Tech Crunch has suggested that by providing a further 5 billion people with weak but free internet, Facebook could then make a basic version of Whatsapp available to those users which would increase connectivity in developing countries.

If Facebook is successful in its proposed purchase of Titan Aerospace, it will place it in direct competition with Google's Project Loon, which has the similar objective of giving third world countries internet access.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword said: "Facebook is playing the long game, its latest purchase won't return a profit for potentially many years as there is yet to be any way of creating ad revenue in developing countries.

"However, if the buyout is successful, Facebook will own two powerful commodities in the fight to acquire the majority share of the world's internet."