Google buys drone maker that was once the object of Facebook's desire

Who will win the internet race?

Google has acquired Titan Aerospace, maker of high-altitude, solar-powered drones, for an undisclosed figure.

The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and later confirmed to TechRadar by a Google spokesperson.

According to the Journal, Google plans to use Titan's drones to gather images and connect more of the world's population to the web. Titan will continue to operate out of its New Mexico base, and Google said the company will work in concert with Project Loon.

Google's Project Loon is working to build massive, high-altitude balloons that beam internet signals to parts of the world still untethered to the net.

There's a chance Titan could also work with Makani, another Google project that's tinkering with an energy-efficient airborne wind turbine.

For its part, Titan has said its drones, which are designed to fly for up to five years, can gather real-time, high-res images of the earth, tow atmospheric sensors and bolster voice and data services.

Titan's tech

Titan claims its Solara drones can shoot internet signals at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

It's currently developing two drones of different sizes powered by solar-charging batteries. The smaller model has a wingspan a scosche larger than that of a Boeing 767.

"Initial commercial operations" of Titan's drones are expected to take off next year.

The Facebook connection

In a statement, the Google spokesperson told us: "Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation. It's why we're so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family."

If the mission sounds familiar, one need look no further than Facebook, and its own drone ambitions.

Facebook was reportedly in talk to buy Titan earlier this year, but opted instead to "acqhire" UK-based aerospace firm Ascenta. The Facebook Connectivity Lab is working on an airborne initiative, developing drones, satellites and lasers to deliver "affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world."

Both companies' goals are altruistic enough, but there's definitely a race to be the first internet delivery boy for billions of people going on between them.

Android has taken the mobile world by storm and is found in innumerable feature phones, but Facebook has countered with its own communications maneuvers, including its recent purchase of WhatsApp.

The battle for communications supremacy has clearly gone airborne, and we can just picture Amazon plotting its next drone move as well.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.