Facebook may soon have its own drones. According to TechCrunch, the company is looking to acquire New Mexico-based drone maker Titan Aerospace for roughly $60 million.
Last year, Titan Aerospace unveiled the world’s first solar-powered atmospheric satellites with a flight range of over four million kilometers. The drones can operate like an orbital satellite and perform tasks including earth imaging, maritime traffic monitoring communications relay, and power Internet, but at a lower cost.
Since Titan Aerospace’s solar-powered drones can fly above the clouds for years, Techcrunch reports Facebook will build 11,000 of these drones to distribute across parts of the developing world that don’t yet have Internet access—in an effort to propel Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative forward.
In the U.S., drones are still heavily regulated—it is illegal to use drones for any commercial purpose. However, Titan Aerospace claims to work with both commercial and government customers, and commercial drones will be legal in the U.S. starting in 2015. Furthermore, since drone regulation varies by country, Facebook could technically circumvent these laws in the U.S. because the Federal Aviation Administration Class A regulation ends at 60,000 feet.
It appears this acquisition of Titan Aerospace might be Facebook’s counter measure to Google’s “Project Loon,” an initiative that aims to bring Internet to the world through atmospheric balloons.
But Facebook’s acquisition of a drone company raises questions regarding the company’s poorly-managedprivacy policies in the past. Facebook already has access to your personal information and has faced scrutiny for not being transparent enough with how it uses it. Adding drones adds more privacy issues into the mix, but what remains unclear is how Facebook plans to leverage users’ data, especially global geographic data, to improve the company’s various services for the future.
Image courtesy of Titan Aerospace.