Although Google is well known for providing satellite imagery to consumers and businesses, the search giant doesn't actually own the technology behind them. That is, until today.

Google has announced an agreement to acquire Skybox Imaging, the 5-year-old satellite provider responsible for keeping Google Maps up-to-date with high-resolution pictures of the world in which we live.

The search giant intends to use the $500 million (about UK£298m, AU$534m) cash deal to "be able to help improve internet access and disaster relief," suggesting Google may be eyeing another of its infamous "moonshots" in the wake of the acquisition.

Only two months ago, Google scooped up Titan Aerospace from the prospective clutches of Facebook, a move that put Mountain View soaring into the business of high-altitude, solar-powered drones.

Reach for the sky

Founded in 2009, Skybox began in Co-Founder John Fenwick's living room prior to raising its first $3 million (about UK£1.79m, AU$3.2m) and setting up shop in a 3,000 square-foot office in Palo Alto, California.

As the company explains in its own blog post on the Google acquisition, Skybox's lofty goal was to "revolutionize access to information about the changes happening across the surface of the Earth."

Such ambitions line up nicely to Google's own, which includes plans to design Skybox satellites from scratch much in the same way the company's new bosses have forged ahead with driverless cars.

As always, the Google acquisition is subject to US regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, so for now Skybox Imaging will carry on business as usual - once the champagne bottles are empty, that is.