Titan Aerospace's drones could eventually be able to stay in the air for up to five years without landing [Credit: Titan Aerospace]

Web giants battle for air supremacy

Google will buy a company making solar-powered drones that was recently courted by fellow web giant Facebook.

The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but Google said it believes the expertise of Titan Aerospace could help solve problems such as Internet access in remote areas, environmental monitoring and disaster relief.

According to Google, the Titan’s technology is still at the proof-of-concept stage and nowhere near deployment but they hope that eventually ‘atmospheric satellites’ will be able to stay in the air for up to five years without landing.

The firm was previously a target for Facebook back in early March, but the social networking site subsequently announced the launch of its new Connectivity Lab in late March, which included experts from UK solar-powered drone firm Ascenta.

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

“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. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.”

When fully developed the satellites could be used for a variety of purposes – including monitoring forest fires, mapping oil spills, measuring atmosphere and ozone levels, and providing voice and internet access in remote areas.

A statement on the firm’s website said: “At Titan Aerospace, we’re passionate believers in the potential for technology (and in particular, atmospheric satellites) to improve people’s lives.

“It’s still early days for the technology we’re developing, and there are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it’s providing internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation.

“That’s why we couldn’t be more excited to learn from and work with our new colleagues as we continue our research, testing and design work as part of the Google family.”

The firm’s technology could also lend a helping hand to some of Google’s more speculative ventures like Project Loon, which uses stratospheric solar-powered balloons to provide internet access in remote areas, and Makani, which uses an airborne, glider-like wind turbine to generate electricity.

All three projects rely on advanced materials design to manufacture lightweight flying objects and algorithms for wind prediction and flight planning.

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