Facebook is reportedly planning to get unmanned drones. It won’t spend $60 million to deliver any goods but to bring Internet connection to billions of people.
Aside from being a social network, Facebook has set its mission to get 5 billion people without access to Internet online. That is why it supports the Internet.org project and the latest news about the company’s endeavor — Facebook wants to buy a company manufacturing drones.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook is planning to buy drone maker Titan Aerospace based in New Mexico for $60 million. We aren’t talking about acquiring drones that can deliver packages just like what Amazon plans. No, these drones won’t deliver pizza. Facebook will be using the drones to bring Internet to areas such as Africa and other developing countries.
The drones that Titan Aerospace make are also not ordinary drones. They can fly non-stop (that means, without landing ever) for five years. They can fly during night time using their batteries while they will be solar-powered the rest of the day.
The social network firm wants to initially build around 11,000 unmanned aerial vehicles called Solara 60 that is currently being produced by Titan Aerospace. These UAVs will be used as a satellite that can stay in orbit and supply Internet signal to those who don’t have the infrastructure yet to go online. Aside from that, it can later be used for earth imaging, weather monitoring, communications, and disaster recovery.
The Solar 60 can bring with about 250 pounds of equipment if needed. It can also get up to 65,000 feet. While it might face regulatory challenges in the U.S., there will most likely be no problems sending out these drones in the airspace of developing countries.
The goal can be considered similar to the Project Loon of Google, which instead of using drones will be using big balloons that can bring Internet to far-flung places. However, such related endeavors can’t be considered a race to help people get connected since billions of people will benefit from them. It will be a big Like for Facebook and +1 for Google.
During the keynote speech of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg at the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Spain, he emphasized the importance of projects such as Internet.org. He believes that helping more people access the Internet can create over 140 million jobs and help 160 million individuals climb out of poverty.
Now, one might be wondering why Facebook acquired the messaging firm WhatsApp with half a billion users for $19 billion and spending a mere $60 million to help create a network of satellite UAVs for 5 billion people. The latter will just be the infrastructure to the great possibility of connecting people across borders that WhatsApp will bring into the picture. Users can message their family or friends for free or a mere $1 after a year of free use. The messaging app is also hinting that it will introduce voice calls in the near future.
While, at the end of the day, people will think that companies and Facebook will think of business, projects such as this may actually help empower people, and the rest of the world won’t mind if it earns something on the side.
Neither Facebook nor Titan Aerospace has commented about the alleged deal as of reporting.