In a press release today, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced that it has agreed to purchase Skybox Imaging for $500 million in cash. U.S. regulators still must approve the deal before it can close, which could be as early as just a couple months from now. Both the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will need to approve it.

Google SkyBox

What Google wants with Skybox

Skybox operates satellites which the search giant intends to use to keep the images through Google Maps up to date. The company will inherit a fleet of satellites and the technology need to build more satellites along with the Skybox acquisition. With Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s recent acquisition of Titan Aerospace, it appears as if Skybox is another piece of a much larger picture.

In a blog posted on its website, Skybox Imaging said it built and launched the smallest high-resolution imaging satellite in the world. The company also said it shares “more than just a zip code” with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG). Skybox states that they both believe it’s important to make information, “especially accurate geospatial information,” both useful and accessible to people.

“The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision,” the company’s post reads.

Skybox to help with Google’s self-driving car?

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) also said it hopes Skybox team and technology can help improve Internet access and disaster relief around the world. The search giant said it has “long been interested in” both of these areas. One possibility is that Skybox’s technology could make it possible for Google to build satellites designed to beam Internet access down to anyone anywhere in the world. If this is one of Google’s aims, then it would be an expansion of the company’s Project Loon, which involves launching antennae-equipped balloons for the purpose of beaming Internet down to emerging markets where the Internet has not yet reached.

Skybox also mentions Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s self-driving cars in its post. It seems to suggest that perhaps its satellites and technology could be used to perfect the self-driving car Google is working on. After all, cars that drive themselves will need geospatial information that is extremely accurate in order to be able to operate safely and efficiently.

Not the first time we’ve heard this

We heard rumors last month that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) was close to signing on the dotted line to buy Skybox Imaging. At one point, it was rumored that Google might pay up to $1 billion for the five-year-old company.