What is Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) up to?
The social networking leader is slated to buy long-endurance, solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace in a $60 million deal.
As crazy as it sounds, it's not that crazy at all.
Apparently, Facebook is interested in privately owned Titan to further its undertaking of connecting the world through global Internet access.
Why Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) Wants Titan
You see, in 2013, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg became the leader and primary backer of the Internet.org initiative, aimed at bringing affordable Internet access to the planet's 5 billion people who live where connectivity is lacking. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company plans to use New Mexico-based Titan's high-flying drones, called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as bouncing stations to bring Internet, Wi-Fi, and broadband access to remote worldwide areas.
Titan's UAVs are actually atmospheric satellites that can conduct most of the operations of an orbital satellite. Making them especially attractive is that they're cheaper and multipurpose and can remain airborne for five years without needing to land.
The company says its UAVs can be used for weather monitoring, maritime traffic observing, disaster recovery, anti-piracy operations, agricultural observations, Earth imaging, and communications.
Without question, it's the communication capabilities that Facebook likes.
Titan would begin its collaboration with Facebook by building 11,000 UAVs, according to TechCrunch, which broke the story early Tuesday.
Two-year-old, venture-backed Titan unveiled its Solara 50 and Solara 60 UAVs in 2013, billing them as extremely cheap alternatives to satellites.
The crafts can be launched during the day or night and are powered by an internal battery. Once airborne, they're powered by solar panels embedded into their 160-foot-long wingspan. The aircrafts operate at an altitude of 65,000 feet and have a mission range of more than 4 million kilometers (2,485,482 miles).
This positions them comfortably above commercial airlines flying around 30,000 feet, as well as above regulated U.S. air space – the Federal Aviation Administration's jurisdiction goes up to 60,000 feet.