A rumor’s been swirling around the Internet this week that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are interested in acquiring solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace. The social media giant is rumored to be interested in the drone company to make the Internet truly mobile. Such a purchase could be part of the Internet.org initiative, which seeks to bring the Internet to parts of the world where there is little to no Internet access at this point.
Facebook isn’t the first to have its head in the clouds, when it comes to increasing Internet access around the world by making servers mobile and airborne. In 2012 The Pirate Bay, a website that hosts bit torrents of files including music, software and other potentially copyrighted materials looked into establishing a network of offshore quadcoptors or drones that would be capable of using tiny Pi computers and servers. That project, dubbed the LOSS (Low Orbit Server Stations) project could transmit to 100 megabytes of information a second. Thus The Pirate Bay could thwart what it considers censorship but others consider international copyright laws while still serving visitors around the world.
More recently Google introduced Project Loon. Under that project, launched last June (2013) Google began flying solar-powered balloons in New Zealand Canterbury region allowing 3G like Internet access in the region. In the test the balloons traveled at about 20 kilometers above the earth’s surface traveling up and down in the stratosphere to catch prevailing air currents and in attempts to keep the balloons in a relatively stable location above the test area. However, it was found that some of the balloons strayed off-course and were lost above the Pacific ocean.
Still, Google is moving forward with the next phase of Project Loon. Earlier this week the company announced that the pilot project was expanded. “The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area,” Google said. “Project Loon will continue to expand the pilot through 2014, with the goal of establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity around the 40th southern parallel, so that pilot testers at this latitude can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet.”
But there’s a difference between the solar-powered balloons that Google is launching compared to the solar-powered drones that Facebook is investigating. Google’s balloons can last more than 100 days—TechCrunch which first reported about the potential Facebook purchase, reported that Facebook is looking into Titan Aerospace’s Solara 60 model, which would be designated as satellites and could fly at elevations of 65,000 feet, for up to five years without needing to land, and such drones could be configured to maintain a relatively fixed position above a region or circulate to provide services as needed.
While the rumors are whirling like air currents. TechCrunch said the rumored purchase price being discussed is for roughly $60 million. To begin with the company would produce roughly 11,000 of the vehicles, Which would start by providing access to the Internet to parts of Africa.