Google acquires drone startup Titan Aerospace

Google said today that it will purchase Titan Aerospace, a drone startup that could support the company’s efforts to provide drone-supported internet and electricity. A price has not yet been disclosed.

“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” a Google spokesperson said. “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.”

Titan builds large drones that rely on solar power to stay in flight for years. Depending on the model, they can carry hundreds of pounds of equipment to carry out applications like mapping, tracking and communication. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the acquisition, confirmed that Google will have Titan work closely with Project Loon, which uses high-altitude balloons to provide internet. The startup may also pair with Makani, which affixes wind turbines to tethered drones to generate power.

An example of a drone built by Titan Aerospace. Photo courtesy of Titan Aerospace.
An example of a drone built by Titan Aerospace. Photo courtesy of Titan Aerospace.

Titan says that the drones can deliver internet at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. But their mapping and monitoring abilities could also be a useful addition to the company’s mapping initiatives like Google Earth, which provides an aerial map of the planet with images taken by satellites. The drones could make it cheaper and easier to generate images that are refreshed more frequently, opening up possibilities like tracking shipments and even forest fires.

Titan will remain in New Mexico with its current CEO and team of roughly 20 people. It will begin commercial operations in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook was reportedly eyeing purchasing Titan earlier this year for $60 million. It later acquired Zephyr, which will support Facebook’s competing initiative to bring internet connectivity to remote areas of the world.