Google beats Facebook’s offer to acquire drone-maker Titan Aerospace

15 Apr 2014

Artist's impression of the Solara 50 via Titan Aerospace

Google has acquired US company Titan Aerospace for an undisclosed sum despite reports that Facebook was close to a deal with the solar-powered drone-maker with the same intention: to bring internet connectivity to remote areas of the world.

Based in New Mexico, Titan Aerospace is developing jet-sized drones – such as the Solara 50 and Solara 60 – which can fly continuously for about five years using solar energy.

A key part of Google’s plan is to use these aircraft to transmit internet signals to areas with no pylons or telephone lines. In this endeavour, Titan’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could link up with Project Loon, Google’s scheme involving solar-powered internet-transmitting balloons, which was launched last summer. Recently, a Loon balloon circumnavigated the globe in just 22 days – beating expectations by 11 days.

Facebook was also interested in buying Titan Aerospace for this reason and was in talks with the company earlier this year. While it is not known what Google paid for the acquisition, The Wall Street Journal claims the company offered to top any offer from Facebook, who reportedly put US$60m on the table.

Other uses Google may have for Titan’s UAV technology could be to collect images for projects, such as Google Maps and Google Earth. The drones could also work with an early stage Google project called Makani, which is developing an airborne wind turbine for efficient electricity generation.

Titan Aerospace’s 20 employees will remain at its New Mexico base and chief executive Vern Raburn continues to hold the reins.

Meanwhile, Facebook has settled for a US$20m purchase of Ascenta, a UK-based aerospace company also working on solar-powered UAVs.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.