The zodiac tells us it's the year of the Horse, but it's shaping up to be the year of the Drone.
Facebook is in talks to acquire Titan Aerospace, a drone manufacturer, for about $60 million, according to TechCrunch. Unlike Amazon, which envisions a future of delivery drones, Facebook is reportedly planning to use drones to further Internet.org, its grand plan to bring low-cost internet access to every corner of the world.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are solar powered and fly at near-orbital heights without needing to land for five years, could be used to broadcast the internet to the 5 billion people on the planet in parts of Africa and elsewhere who still don’t have access.
Titan touts the drones as the world’s first “atmospheric satellites,” which have many of the same capabilities as traditional satellites including ground imaging, weather monitoring and broadcasting communication signals. If the deal goes through, Facebook would begin by building 11,000 of the Solera 60-type UAVs, TechCrunch reports.
Internet.org competes with Google’s Project Loon, a similar initiative that uses balloons instead of drones to deliver internet to developing parts of the world.
By providing people with their first online experience in places where the internet is far from ubiquitous, both companies hope to develop loyal, lifelong customers. Their motives may not be entirely altruistic, but the outcome — a world more connected through information — may ultimately benefit.