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Google Edges Out Facebook For Drone-Based Internet Deal


DARPA also looking to maximize mobile Wi-Fi.

titan aerospace

It seems Google may have more cash to spend on drones right now than Facebook.

Last month, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg told the world his company plans to "build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the Internet to everyone." But Google just beat out the social media giant on a bid for Titan Aerospace, a company that specializes in near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for years without needing to land.

f The Titan Aerospace Solara 60 is pitched as "atmospheric parking" and can fly for years without needing to land. Google announced Monday that Titan Aerospace was now in "the Google family." (Image source: Titan Aerospace)

"Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world," a Google spokesperson told PCMag.com. "It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring Internet access to millions of people, and help solve their problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation. It's why we're so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family."

Titan's Solara 60, which was reported to be the model Facebook's Connectivity Lab wanted to use for blanketing the planet with Wi-Fi, is essentially a drone that can act like an orbital satellite. The term atmospheric satellite is given to the near-orbital vehicle, which can conduct many of the same operations, like weather monitoring or earth imaging, for pennies on the dollar compared to a payload launched into space.

A Facebook representative told TheBlaze that the company had no comment about the Titan purchase, or the undisclosed amount of money Google dropped to snag the aerospace company. But the price tag must have been more than the reported $60 Million that was on the table as of last month.

But the two Internet giants aren't the only recognizable names vying for airspace for their internet-spreading drones. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will re-purpose unmanned aerial vehicles from the Iraq war heyday, and outfit them with Wi-Fi capabilities.

DARPA's Mobile Hostpots program retrofits retired RQ-7 Shadow drones with "pods that will be able to transfer one gigabyte per second of data — the equivalent of 4G smartphone connectivity — so that soldiers in remote areas will have the same access to tactical operation centers and mission data that others in more central theaters have," according to Wired.

w DARPA's Mobile Hotspots program would mount a lightweight pod onto the RQ-7 Shadow to provide access for troops in remote outposts. (Image source: DARPA)

The real question is: Which global Internet project will be hacked by bad guys first? Google's Project Loon, Facebook's Connectivity Lab or DARPA's Mobile Wi-Fi? With the ease most hackers seem to have with breaking into anything connected to the Internet, it seems the ease of access these orbital Wi-Fi "blankets" will be coupled with the potential for massive security breaches.

(H/T: Wired)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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