Google Inc. announced on Monday that it had acquired a New Mexico-based drone maker Titan Aerospace, a startup that Facebook Inc. had also considered acquiring. The purchase is part of the new push in Silicon Valley to find ways of delivering Internet service to underserved areas, particularly in the developing world.
“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” Google 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. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.”
Titan Aerospace specializes in making drones, which can stay aloft for extended periods of time. The 20-person company has two main products to offer: the solar-powered Solara 50 and the Solara 60, both of which can reportedly stay in flight for five years and are capable of carrying 70 pounds and 250 pounds, respectively.
“We’re thrilled to announce that Titan Aerospace is joining Google,” said Titan Aerospace on its website, adding, “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.”
The company has said it expects “initial commercial operations” in 2015. However, experts say there are many technical challenges to overcome before such services become a reality. The Titan team will operate separately from Google, but will collaborate with divisions including Google Maps and Project Loon, which has been working on delivering Internet service from high-altitude balloons.
Project Loon began with a pilot test in June 2013, when thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area, says Forbes.
Google will also likely use the drones to take photos for Google Maps and assist in on the project Makani, in which the company hopes to create an airborne wind turbine that is tethered to the ground as it generates electricity flying through the air.
Facebook had been in talks to buy Titan earlier this year, but Google offered to top any Facebook offer, according to a person familiar with the matter. However, do not worry about Facebook, as social network giant later agreed to pay $20 million for Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace company that also has been working on solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles.
The California-based internet search giant has been investing in numerous projects outside its main business to extend its reach. The company has spent on products like Google Glass connected eyewear and driverless cars.
In December of 2013, Google officially acquired Boston Dynamics, engineering company that has designed robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is part of a new product area led by Andy Rubin, former head of the company’s Android mobile-software unit.