Amazon isn’t the only company betting on drones. Google just snapped up Titan Aerospace, a two-year-old start-up that makes high-altitude drones, to help bring the Internet to the global masses.
“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” Google said in a statement. “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.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In its own statement, Titan Aerospace said it is passionate about the potential for technology, and in particular, atmospheric satellites, to improve people’s lives. “It’s still early days for the technology we’re developing, and there are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it’s providing Internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation,” the company said.
In December, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said his company was working on creating unmanned aircraft to deliver packages, but acknowledged that it would take years to advance the technology as well as for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.
Why Did Google Buy?
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the acquisition. He told us Google probably has several motivations for inking the deal.
“Among them the possibility that this could support its Project Loon effort to extend the reach of the Internet to remote locations,” Sterling said. With a tagline "Loon for all," Project Loon deploys balloons that float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather.
As Google explains it, they are carried around the earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired directions.
“In addition, drones can also be used to acquire new imagery for Google Maps and Earth,” Sterling said. “And Google's robotics research and initiative probably also is tied into this acquisition."
Google launched its "Moonshot" robotics effort in December 2013. The company is proposing life-size humanoid robots to deliver packages to your doorstep, according to the New York Times. Andy Rubin, the mastermind behind the Android project, is heading up the robotics endeavor. This is his first big move since he gave Android over to Sundar Pichai in early 2013. Apparently, robotics has been on his mind for more than a decade.
“Finally,” said Sterling, “there was a rumor that Facebook was also interested in the company, which, if true, probably provided some additional motivation for Google.”
Facebook reportedly considered buying Titan for about $20 million. Instead, the social media giant bought Oculus VR for $2 billion. Oculus is developing as a heavy hitter in immersive virtual reality technology. The company has established plenty of interest among developers, having posted more than 75,000 development kit orders for the Oculus Rift, its virtual reality headset.
The trend is clear: from Amazon to Google to Facebook and beyond, technology companies are jockeying for position in an Internet future once only the stuff of dreams.