Google Buys Drone Maker to Boost Internet Access from Space

Drones are the new black in the tech industry: Google has acquired Titan Aereospace, a startup whose high-altitude, solar-powered drones can provide fast Internet access to users on the ground, with an eye toward putting them into operation as early as next year.

Terms of the deal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, were not disclosed.

“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” a Google rep 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.”

Facebook had been in talks to buy Titan in a deal reportedly worth up to $60 million, to further the social giant’s own plans at providing ubiquitous Internet access to people around the world. But instead, last month Facebook announced the acquisition of U.K.-based Ascenta, another company building drones, for about $20 million.

According to Google, Titan will become part of Google’s Project Loon, a plan to deploy high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access to under-served areas that it began testing in 2013. “Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters,” the Internet giant says on the website for the project.

Meanwhile, Amazon.com hopes to use fleets of drones for same-day delivery of products ordered from the e-commerce company. The Amazon Prime Air service — to use unmanned aircraft to deliver orders in 30 minutes or less — is in the testing phase, and the company said the rollout is expected take “some number of years” to develop and receive FAA approval.

Titan, founded in 2012, is based in Moriarty, N.M. The company had not disclosed its investors, which it said include “leading entrepreneurs.”

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