Facebook Bets On Africa With An 11,000 Internet Drones Plan

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

From TechCrunch

Facebook, one of the primary backers of the Internet.org initiative, which aims to bring affordable Internet access to the 5 billion people in the world who still lack connectivity, is in talks with a company that could help further that agenda. TechCrunch is hearing that Facebook is buying Titan Aerospace, makers of near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. According to a source with access to information about the deal, the price for this acquisition is $60 million.

From our understanding, Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa. The company would start by building 11,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically the “Solara 60″ model.

You can see an example of these UAVs, first introduced last year, here on YouTube. As the video explains, these drones are “atmospheric satellites” that can conduct most of the operations of an orbital satellite, but are cheaper and more versatile. The drones could potentially have many uses, including weather monitoring, disaster recovery, Earth imaging, or communications, the company has said, but clearly Facebook would be interested in that latter part.

Titan Aerospace is a privately held venture with R&D facilities in New Mexico. The company has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through seed and Series A and A-1 rounds, and had announced in October 2013 it would open a B round soon.

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