If you thought that Facebook dropping $19 billion (and change) to buy WhatsApp would have put the social network out of the deal-making space for the next several quarters—after all, even Mark Zuckerberg only has so many billions to spend—you assumed wrong: according to TechCrunch, Facebook plans on purchasing Titan Aerospace for roughly $60 million. (Mere pocket change, indeed.)
TechCrunch cited an unnamed source “with access to information about the deal,” and suggested that Facebook wants to use the drones “to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa.”
On the surface, such a deal (if confirmed by Facebook) would make sense: Zuckerberg has expressed intense interest in bringing Internet access to every human being on the planet via his Internet.org project. That initiative, managed in conjunction with partners such as Nokia and Samsung, is also tasked with examining ways to lower the amount of data necessary to power apps and Internet experiences. While a cynic might suggest Internet.org is a ploy to spread Facebook and other software to more customers, the Facebook founder insists that his motives are purely altruistic.
Zuckerberg isn’t the only one interested in bringing the Internet to the developing world: Google has reportedly experimented with satellite-based networks and even blimps as methods for expanding the Internet’s reach to underserved countries. Google (along with Amazon and other tech giants) have also become increasingly interested in drones.
Titan Aerospace’s products include the Solara 60, which is solar-powered and capable of “parking” at an extremely high altitude, much like a satellite. As TechCrunch points out, these drones can fly above the U.S. airspace regulated by the FAA, which means Titan Aerospace (and by extension, Facebook) wouldn’t have to go through the review process confronting Amazon and other companies that want to use UAVs at lower altitudes. Of course, the airspace over developing countries targeted by Internet.org might not have any drone-related regulations at all.
At this rate, a perquisite for being a tech giant will be an airforce at the CEO’s disposal.
Image: Titan Aerospace