Google Buys Titan, Drone Designer, After Facebook Made $60M Bid

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 02:32 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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Google acquired New Mexico-based drone designer Titan Aerospace on Monday, roughly a month after Facebook made a reported $60 million bid of its own.

The Wall Street Journal reported the acquisition Monday, reporting that both Google and Facebook are interested in drones' abilities to beam Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world, among other things like collecting images and monitoring the weather. 

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The jet-sized drones like the Solara 60 model differ significantly from drones being developed by other companies, like Amazon. Late last year, Amazon revealed it was several generations into developing delivery drones that appeared to be mostly helicopter-like.

Instead, the low-orbit drones built by Titan are propeller-guided gliders designed to be used like satellites. The drones cost significantly less to build and maintain than other companies' drones.

Theoretically, they could stay aloft for up to 5 years using a combination of battery power and solar power.

Google has been experimenting with balloon-based drones through its Project Loon initiative, which will now collaborate with Titan's 20-person team in New Mexico. CEO Vern Raburn, formerly the head of Symantec and Microsoft's consumer-products division, will remain at the head of the 2-year-old company.

Titan has said previously that it expects to begin commercial operations in 2015. But many people say 2015 is optimistic. Even Amazon's less sophisticated drones are five years out.

After the acquisition, Facebook acquired a similar U.K.-based drone company called Ascenta for $20 million.

While it was negotiating with Titan, Facebook tested the technology and researchers got a solar powered plane off the ground for a few minutes at 400 feet.

Ascenta worked on a drone called Zephyr that flew for two weeks over the Arizona desert in 2010.

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