Facebook is reportedly in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, makers of solar-powered, high-altitude drones that can stay aloft for up to five years at a time.
It’s thought that the social network is interested in using the aircraft to provide internet access in developing markets as part of its internet.org initiative.
This project, launched by Mark Zuckerberg last August in partnership with companies including Nokia and Qualcomm, aims to cut the cost of internet access across the world and connect “the next five billion people” to the web.
Reports from TechCrunch suggest that Facebook is interested in buying the drone manufacturer for $60 million and would begin by building 11,000 Solara 60 aircraft to provide internet access in Africa.
Titan Aerospace, a private company with research and development facilities in New Mexico, unveiled its Solara 50 and Solara 60 unmanned aerial vehicles last year, marketing them as extremely cheap alternatives to satellites.
The craft can be launched at night powered by an internal battery and once airborne use solar panels embedded into their 160-foot long wingspan to power them. The aircraft have a mission range of over 4 million kilometres and operate at an altitude of 65,000 feet.
The Solara 50 drone