Google has acquired Skybox Imaging, a company that captures high-resolution imagery with satellites, for $500 million in cash. At least initially, it sounds like Skybox's technology will be used to bring fresh satellite photos to Google Maps and Google Earth. "Their satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," Google told Recode in a statement. "Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in." Google has spent significant cash to snatch up drone and satellite companies for its future plans. In April, it purchased Titan Aerospace, a drone maker that Facebook had reportedly been eyeing for its own internet delivery ambitions. The Information first reported Google's interest in both companies.
After buying Titan, Google said "atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation." Eventually it may repurpose Skybox's satellites for a similar purpose. Google has already outlined plans to deliver internet service to the far reaches of Earth with its "moonshot" Project Loon, which uses balloons to beam down web connectivity in remote areas. Presumably it's simultaneously working on an expanded, even grander vision that these acquisitions fit into, but only Larry Page and co. know for sure.