Why does Facebook need a drone company?

Summary:To bring Internet to Africa.

Facebook is reportedly in talks to buy a drone company called Titan Aerospace for $60 million, according to TechCrunch

Why does Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg need a bunch of drones? To bring Internet access to Africa and the rest of the developing world, of course.

Titan Aerospace doesn't make just any old drone. The New Mexico-based startup has developed an autonomous solar-powered aircraft designed to stay aloft at 65,000 feet (far above air traffic) for up to five years. The aircraft, called the Solara, was unveiled last year at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the world's largest trade show for unmanned planes, vehicles and ships. 

The company markets its aircraft as a cheaper, easier-to-use alternative to launching space satellites. The drones can be used for Earth imaging, communications and even weather monitoring. Initial commercial operations for its line of Solara aircrafts are expected in 2015, according to the company website.

Enter Facebook, the main backer of Internet.org, an initiative that aims to make Internet access available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected. The drones could be used much like Google's Project Loon , which uses weather balloons to bring Internet access to remote areas of the world.

Project Loon was launched in June 2013 with an experimental pilot in New Zealand and an ongoing series of research flights are being conducted in California's Central Valley. 

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter.

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