Facebook aims at internet through UAVs; eyes solar drone maker Titan

Facebook Inc is in talks to buy solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million, in a bid to provide affordable internet access to consumers in undeveloped parts of the world, technology blog TechCrunch reported on Monday, citing an anonymous source.
Solara Aircraft
The deal would help Facebook advance its internet.org project, a global partnership aimed at making internet access available to provide internet access to billions of people who do not currently have it.

On 25 February, Zuckerberg told the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona, ''Only 2.7 billion people have access to the internet and it's growing more slowly than you think. The main cost is not the smart phone; it's the cost of the data access. We are really not on a path at this point to connect everyone in the world.''

The social network is trying to be one-up on Google's Project Loon, which plans on delivering internet connectivity to remote areas via solar-powered helium balloons (See:Google reveals plan to beam internet from balloons in stratosphere).

According to technology website TechCrunch, Mark Zuckerberg and his group were in discussions with New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace to bring their solar-powered UAVs on board for the ambitious plan of bringing 5 billion people online.

Facebook is among the leading investors in the internet.org project and the drones would fit into the plan, the report said.

TechCrunch said that the price for the acquisition would be around $60 million, which, if true, was significantly less than what the whopping $16 billion it paid to acquire WhatsApp.

The company would reportedly kick off the internet providing drone project in Africa, with 11,000 Solara UAVs.

The Solara UAVs are said to be capable of night flight powered by internal battery packs and could then use solar power to stay flying for up to five years at an altitude of 20km above sea level, similar to Project Loon.