Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is getting aggressive with its Internet.org initiative after spending $19 billion on WhatsApp. The social networking giant is the biggest backer of the Internet.org initiative. Mark Zuckerberg aims to provide affordable Internet access to the remaining 5 billion people through the initiative. Now the company is in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, which makes solar-powered drones. Sources close to the deal told TechCrunch that Facebook is willing to shell out about $60 million for the acquisition.
Facebook to use drones exclusively for the Internet.org initiative
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) may use these near-orbital drones to provide Internet access to regions that still lack Internet access, beginning with Africa. According to TechCrunch, the company would build about 11,000 Solara 60 model unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). And all of them would be used for the Internet.org initiative. These drones can perform most of the functions of an orbital satellite, but are much cheaper. They can be used for Earth imaging, disaster recovery, communication and weather monitoring. But the Menlo Park-based company is more likely to be interested in its communications capabilities.
Titan Aerospace drones can be launched at night. They use power from the internal battery packs until the sun rises. And then the drones use solar energy to ascend to 12.5 miles above sea level. They can remain there for at least five years without needing to refuel or land. Titan Aerospace is a private company led by CEO Vern Raburn. It has R&D facilities in New Mexico.
What is Facebook planning?
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s Project Loon also aims to provide easy Internet access to the other 5 billion people who don't use the internet. But it involves balloons. There have been reports that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is already working on the counterpart to Google's Project Loon. It's a bit surprising that the social media company paid $19 billion for WhataApp, and is willing to pay only $60 million to make Internet more accessible. TechCrunch says that WhatsApp also shares the same broader goal of bringing Internet to the world, from Facebook's point of view.
If Titan Aerospace drones can provide weak but free Internet access to emerging countries, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) could make a basic version of WhatsApp for those users. The basic version may not allow users to share photos and videos, but they could send messages and view status updates. Facebook acquired Onavo, which is working on data compression technologies. It will allow same functions to consumer less data to complete. The Onavo-optimized version of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger could run on weak Internet strength provided by drones because they don't need much data.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares rose 1.66% to $68.53 in pre-market trading Tuesday.