Mark Zuckerberg’s long-stated goal for Facebook is to “connect the world.” Now it seems he may be considering using drones in order to achieve that.
The world’s largest social network is in talks to purchase Titan Aerospace, a manufacturer of solar-powered drones, according to TechCrunch. Titan’s drones, which they call “atmospheric satellites,” can be used as communications relays, delivering voice and data service for miles as they hover near Earth's orbit. Facebook would presumably likely use the devices to provide Internet access in areas that are currently offline. The company has plans to start placing the drones in Africa and eventually build 11,000 of them, according to TechCrunch.
The purchase would be the first significant development for Internet.org, an initiative launched by Facebook and several mobile tech companies to bring online access to the 5 billion people in the world who don’t currently have it. Titan’s drones could also nicely complement Facebook’s last big purchase, WhatsApp. The messaging service, which Facebook is paying $19 billion for, is already popular in developing markets and would likely get a big boost in more people in those countries had Internet access.
Facebook is hardly the only tech giant experimenting with unmanned vehicles, though. Last summer Google launched Project Loon, a similar initiative that uses solar-powered balloons to provide Internet access in remote areas. And Amazon teased a much-hyped, if completely impractical, drone delivery service on 60 Minutes in December.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.