Google’s acquisition of Titan Aerospace confirms the tech sector’s growing interest in high-altitude drones as powerful tools for gathering and relaying data across the globe.
The two-year-old Moriarty, N.M., startup develops solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles that function like near-earth satellites. Its inaugural product, Solara, can stay aloft for up to five years, providing high-resolution images; voice and data services; atmospheric monitoring; and mapping and navigation offerings. The devices are far less expensive than traditional satellites, and can return to Earth for maintenance or to swap out payloads, the company has said previously.
It’s easy to imagine the technology bolstering an array of the Mountain View search giant’s product and research areas, including Google Earth, Google Maps and Project Loon, the company’s effort to connect the developing world online through high-altitude balloons.
Google confirmed the acquisition, but didn’t disclose the deal terms or discuss its plans in detail. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” Google 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.”
All of this grand potential is true. But surely there are some pragmatic considerations at play for Google as well: The more data it gathers and the more people who connect to the Internet, the more customers it accrues for its online services and targeted ads.
Facebook also previously considered buying the company, according to sources familiar with the matter. In the end, the social networking company instead picked up part of the team from Ascenta, a United Kingdom company developing what it described as “the world’s longest-flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.” That deal played into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project, another effort to blanket the world in Wi-Fi.
In October, Titan tapped aerospace veteran Vern Raburn as chairman and CEO, and said it was about to begin raising its Series B round. Several inquires to Titan weren’t immediately returned.