MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – Facebook is in talks to purchase an aerospace firm that makes solar-powered drones as part of the company’s strategy to bring Internet access to areas of the world that lack connectivity, according to a published report.
TechCrunch reported that Facebook is close to buying New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, which makes what it calls atmospheric satellites – drones that fly at near-orbital heights and are powered by solar cells that can keep them aloft for five years.
These aircraft would operate at 65,000 feet, a point in the atmosphere just above the height that is regulated in the U.S. by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a Forbes report.
TechCrunch cited a source close to the negotiations as saying the acquisition would cost Facebook $60 million.
The report said Facebook would use the high-flying drones, which can conduct many of the operations a satellite can – but cheaper and with more versatility – to bring Internet to areas of the world that have no access, beginning in parts of Africa.
Facebook has stated one of its goals is to give everyone web access and is one of the backers of the Internet.org partnership, which seeks to bring connectivity to the two-thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it, according to the initiative.
Facebook would use thousands of the drones to blanket those areas lacking Internet connectivity, according to the report.