Sorry, Facebook, Google snatches up drone maker

Google looks to drones and high-altitude balloons for Internet connectivity

Google, which has been looking for new ways to deliver Internet connectivity, has bought Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico-based company known for making solar-powered drones.

The deal slips the drone maker out of Facebook's grasp.

The news of Google's acquisition comes a little more than a month after reports that Google-rival Facebook was planning on acquiring Titan for $60 million.

Today, Google confirmed to Computerworld that it was acquiring Titan Aerospace but did not disclose a purchase price.

"Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world," a Google spokesman said in an email. "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."

Google has been looking at different ways to bring Internet connectivity to the two out of three people around the world who don't have access to a fast and affordable connection.

With Project Loon, Google has been testing high-altitude balloons, launching 30 balloons above the Canterbury area of New Zealand as part of a pilot test last summer with 50 users trying to connect to the Internet via the balloons.

Earlier this month, Google announced that one of its balloons circled the Earth in 22 days. Now in its second lap around the world, the balloon marked the project's 500,000th kilometer.

It had been expected that Facebook would jump into the fray by using Titan's drones to bring Internet connectivity to remote or impoverished areas.

Now it appears that Google has added another technology to its arsenal, leaving Facebook out of the equation at least for now.

"Google and Facebook are in an arms race for more data and more analytics," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "For Facebook, this is another step that they're falling behind Google. When it comes to information, Facebook is dwarfed by Google."

Kerravala added that Facebook would have been smart to ante up and pay what it needed to in order to keep Titan Aerospace away from Google.

Titan Aerospace builds lightweight, high-flying drones that can take off at 20 mph and remain aloft for five years. The company's Solara 50 drone, for instance, can fly as high as 65,000 feet above Earth.

Google and Facebook, though, have some company in using high-flying technology.

Amazon announced last December that it plans to use drones to deliver merchandise to customers. Amazon said with drones, some customers could get their purchases within half an hour.

This article, Sorry, Facebook, Google snatches up drone maker, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.

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