Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, appears to putting some of his money where his mouth is, as it has recently been reported that Facebook is in negotiations with the intent to purchase an aerospace manufacturer known as Titan Aerospace. The purchase priced discussed is somewhere in the vicinity of $60 million for a company that is involved in the development of drones, or what they refer to as Atmospheric satellites.
The brand name of the drones is the Solara, and there are two versions that appear to be in development. Commercialization of the air-crafts,is expected to begin in 2015.
The question on everyone’s mind is what will Facebook do with drones, or the Atmospheric satellites as they are called, and speculation has already began to circulate that the drones, which are branded as the Solara 50 and Solara 60, can be connected to Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project. The drones are designed to stay aloft for 5 years, flying way above the clouds at an astonishing 65,000 feet, at speeds up to 104 km per hour, before they may need to land for any purpose, such as refueling. They can travel for 2.5 million miles before landing, and with a payload of 250 pounds, the Solar 60, can carry enough equipment to wirelessly beam the Internet back down to the remote areas of the globe.
Satellites bring us television broadcasts, telephone, GPS navigation systems, the weather reports, and images of the earth such as Google Maps and integration of satellites in high-altitude drones, may be a natural fit. With an attempt to connect the dots, the speculation around the reports that Facebook is in talks to buy the drone maker Titan Aerospace, is that the world’s biggest social network, will use the satellites to connect the two billion people in the developing countries who do not yet have Internet access.
According to the popular tech blog Tech Crunch, negotiations may involve an outright purchase of the company, or an order for 11000 units of the Solara 60 satellites. The air-crafts are powered by more than 3000 solar cells on on wingspan that extends for more than 100 meters, and generate more than seven Kw of energy than can be stored in Lithium ion batteries.
Both Facebook and Titan Aerospace declined to comment on any of the reports, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently mentioned the Internet.org project, which is aimed at connecting more people with the world wide web, and not surprisingly, more people using Facebook. Several other tech companies are involved in the project, and involvement from wireless service providers is required. The services to be offered would include data transmission, messaging, food and weather information, and social networking services,but some providers such as Vodafone appear to shirk the offer of giving free or reduced rates for the use of its services.
The use of drones has been envisioned for the delivery of merchandise, but they may also be used configured to deliver access to the Internet, without the construction of expensive infrastructure. By entering into talks to buy Drone Maker Titan Aerospace, Facebook appears to be taking a page out of Google’s book, for at the end of 2013, Google announced the Project Loon initiative, which aimed to use solar-powered balloons with wireless technology that would beam the Internet back to the far flung corners of the earth.
By Dale Davidson
The Globe and Mail