Google Buys Drone Manufacturer Titan Aerospace

TitanGoogle has acquired drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for an undisclosed sum.

Titans statement on the acquisition picked out “providing internet connections in remote areas” as one of the use cases it will be working on at Google, and The Wall Street Journal has received confirmation from Google that Titan will be working closely with Project Loon initiative to deploy high-altitude balloons to improve internet and network coverage in emerging markets.

Just last month, Facebook was rumoured to be in talks to acquire Titan itself for around $60m. Its not currently clear if these rumours were true, or if Google eventually outbid Facebook, but its certainly worth comparing the Zuckerberg-founded with Googles own efforts to widen internet access around the world.

Two weeks ago, announced that it had founded its Connectivity Lab, a team working on new aerospace and communication technologies including drones and satellites. In retrospect, perhaps this announcement was a sign that Facebook had not bought Titan, and will instead be relying on expertise from NASA and Ascenta, a small UK-based designer of high-altitude aircraft, as part of the Lab team.

With this acquisition, the main point of differentiation between the two projects, at least to an outside observer, has effectively disappeared. Whether Google will be moving away from balloons, as the WSJ reports, or merely adding to its arsenal, its hard to ignore that this means the initiatives will be using very similar technology to achieve the same goals.

Increasing the connected population of the world is an undeniably huge opportunity. Whether its a big enough opportunity to make space for both of these major tech players, however, remains to be seen.