Facebook Eyeing Drone Fleet

Solar-powered UAVs could provide Internet service almost anywhere

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Titan's UAVs have a five-year flight time and a carrying capacity of 250 pounds.     Photo: Courtesy of Titan Aerospace

Facebook is reportedly in talks to purchase Titan Aerospace, a producer of solar-powered, near-orbital unmanned aerial vehicles. Titan UAVs can stay airborne for up to five years without landing and have the potential to house and operate communication systems very similar to satellites but at a much lower cost.

The immediate application for Facebook would be using these UAVs to provide Internet service in developing nations and remote regions around the world.

Facebook’s possible new acquisition would go a long way in the Internet.org initiative, which plans to deliver Internet access to 5 million people around the globe. Facebook, along with other tech giants such as Samsung, Nokia, and Qualcomm, set out in August 2013 to partner on creating cheap, high-quality access to the Web, primarily in developing countries. 

To start, Facebook is reportedly interested in launching more than 10,000 UAVs, with Africa as the primary focus. The Solara 60, one of Titan Aerospace’s premier units, is the likely choice with its ability to carry up to 250 pounds of equipment during flight.

In American airspace, near-orbital UAVs like Titan Aerospace’s Solara 50 and 60 are qualified as satellites and operate above the FAA’s regulatory ceiling of 60,000 feet.

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