Facebook Drones Could Give Everyone Internet Access

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There are still a few people in the world not on Facebook — and word has it that the social networking giant wants to change that by providing affordable Internet access via solar-powered drones.

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Facebook may be buying Titan Aerospace, a startup working on solar-powered drones that can fly continuously for years without needing to land, Sarah Perez and Josh Constine reported in TechCrunch. The writers said the tip about the deal came from someone outside the company with unauthorized access to the information, but they were able to confirm that discussions are taking place.

Technically Titan’s drones are solar-powered “atmospheric satellites” or “atmosats” intended to fly above FAA-regulated space. TechCrunch’s writers reported the deal may be part of the Internet.org partnership, which counts Facebook as a founding partner. That partnership is competing with Google’s balloon-powered Internet initiative, Project Loon.

Affordable Internet access for all sounds altruistic, but there’s often a business angle. “If Facebook could project weak but free Internet to developing nations via Titan Aerospace drones, it could then make a basic version of WhatsApp available to those users,” Perez and Constine wrote. To be fair, I’m also skeptical about nonprofits that are trying to do the same thing.

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I was on the site back when it was still “The Facebook” but found it increasingly alienating, especially with the ever-changing settings. Now I get important updates directly from friends and family. No drones needed.

Image: Titan Aerospace’s Solara 50 drone is solar-powered and could provide Internet access to remote areas. Credit: Titan Aerospace.