It is reported that Facebook is in talks to buy a company that manufactures high altitude autonomous drone aircraft that will enable the beaming of Internet connections to isolated communities in Africa.
According to Facebook, only 2.7 billion people, just over one third of the world’s population, have access to the Internet, and they plan to change that with the acquisition of Titan aerospace.
It has been reported by TechCrunch that the social networking giant plans to build 11,000 Titan Solara model 60 drones, each carrying modified equipment that will be able to beam down blanket Internet connections to the parts of the world that remain offline.
The ambitious plans are part of the internet.org project which aims to make the world totally Internet enabled. Other backers of the project include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. It is thought that Facebook’s involvement in the project is a way of ensuring that social networking becomes a basic service used by those in developing economies as they start to use Internet connected devices for the first time.
Titan’s drones, which will have a 165-foot wingspan, can fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet, with some models able to carry up to 100kg of equipment, making them a less expensive option than satellites. They are also able to stay in flight for up to five years at a time. This makes them a far superior choice than Google’s Project Loon solar powered air balloons, which they hope to launch into the stratosphere, bringing 3G speed Internet to isolated and developing parts of the world. However, those balloons can only stay buoyant for 100 days before drifting back to earth to be replaced.
Titan Aerospace CEO Vern Raburn told Reuters: “The drones are a solar powered airplane, so it doesn’t have any fuel and can climb to a very high altitude and stay there. From that altitude it can do a multiplicity of missions ranging from communications, data, optical and weather sensing.”
Mr Raburn declined to comment on whether he knew that Facebook were planning to put in a large order or were negotiating to buy the company.