Facebook's Drone May Bring Internet To Remote World

by CXOtoday News Desk    Mar 05, 2014

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Facebook is reportedly talking to buy a drone company called Titan Aerospace for $60 million. The news published on TechCrunch reports that the New Mexico-based start-up is developing autonomous solar-powered aircrafts, which are still in development and not yet commercially available, and can stay in the air for as long as five years. Titan’s website cites a wide range of uses for the drones, including atmospheric and weather monitoring, disaster response and voice and data communications, says the report.

According to multiple sources close to the company, the very nature of this program appealed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is aiming at reaching nearly two-thirds of the world’s population who are not yet online. In other words, Facebook acquisition of Titan Aerospace would enable Zuckerberg bolster its Internet.org project, believe experts.

The project which was launched last year saw Facebook on a partnership spree, with companies such as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nokia, aiming to connect over 5 billion of the world’s population out  of 7 billion who has the potential but still haven’t come online. Experts believe, Internet.org could use Titan’s solar-powered atmospheric satellites to serve as airborne wireless access points.

A similar initiative called Project Loon was launched by Google later in 2013. Although Google was not a part of the Internet.org effort, it launched a similar undertaking earlier this year that uses a network of weather balloons, which are currently aloft over the South Pacific. The aim was to connect “everyone on earth online.”

At the recent Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg mentioned that access connectivity is not the primary obstacle to getting the world online, as over 80% of the world’s population live in areas with 2G or 3G wireless access. Connectivity, he said can transform the economic landscape as people will have basic financial services, access to health care information and educational, besides multiple other benefits.

In August last year, Facebook also bought a company called Onavo to complement its Internet.org’s vision. The company develops data compression technology, which helps applications run with greater efficiency. This, Facebook said, is especially important in developing countries, where people have access to much slower Internet speeds.

Analysts believe the recent acquisitions could also bring enormous benefits to the remote areas of Africa and Asia, where they believe Facebook’s next billion customers live.