Facebook may be preparing its next major purchase. According to TechCrunch and CNBC, Facebook will buy drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for $60 million and plans to use its vehicles to help spread internet access worldwide. A drone manufacturer would obviously be a strange acquisition for Facebook, which has largely focused on buying consumer technology companies and apps — most notably, WhatsApp and Instagram. But both outlets report that the purchase will serve Internet.org, an initiative launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year that holds the goal of bringing the entire world online.
Its drones can stay in the air for five years
The plan is far less outlandish than it might sound. Titan Aerospace says that its solar-powered drones are capable of staying in the air for five years at a time. And when used as a communication hub, Titan Aerospace says that a single drone could create a voice and data network with "the reach of over one hundred terrestrial cell towers." Facebook is reportedly interested in flying the drones over Africa to start. Google previously announced a similar plan for delivering internet to developing areas of the world, though Google's plan would use large balloons instead of drones. Neither outlet states when the supposed deal between Facebook and Titan Aerospace would be announced. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TechCrunch reports that on closing, Titan Aerospace's entire production would go toward Internet.org. The initial goal is reportedly to build 11,000 of its Solara 60 model drones for the initiative. Titan Aerospace also makes a second drone model, the Solara 50, which is somewhat smaller. We haven't seen much of what Internet.org intends to do, but the purchase of Titan Aerospace would certainly put a bold foot forward. In the end, the initiative may be a business proposition for the tech companies involved — as the ultimate result is more potential customers — but if some of their more ambitious plans pan out, it could mean having a huge philanthropic impact too.