Google Swoops On Facebook, Again, to Snatch Solar-Powered Drones

Michael Teague |

One year ago, tech beauty/beast Google (GOOG) was ruffling the feathers of the telecom industry by pushing the expansion of its “Google fiber” project into Austin, Texas.

Now, however, the company has three admittedly not massive but very relevant US cities connected, and has been providing super high-speed internet access to residents and businesses in Provo, Kansas City, and Austin for a price that works out to a mere fraction of what most beleaguered consumers monthly find themselves paying for the substantially lower quality access that is typically on offer from telecom monoliths.

But if AT&T (T) was up in arms about its fledgling competitor’s moves to get Austin wired up last year, it’s hard to imagine what form its reaction might take once Google drones start providing internet access to the swathes of the US and the rest of the world that happen to be too far out of the way to receive traditional internet connection services.

Google already has another similar program in the works with its “Project Loon” that employs weather balloons that hover at the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere in an effort to bring online at least some of the world’s more remote populations. But with the company’s acquisition of Titan Aersopace, the world’s dominant search engine has moved in to solar-powered drones that can fly at altitudes of around 65,000 feet,  and for durations that can stretch to as long as 3 years.

The acquisition fits into a number of different niche/modular spots in Google’s business, including Google Maps and Google Earth, and could potentially make the company even more inevitable and essential as an information provider during times of disaster and extreme weather. However, given what already exists with the Loon project, it is safe to say that the company has not taken its eye off of being a service provider, helping consumers to connect to the internet that the company itself is so responsible for organizing.

Also telling is that fact that Titan had not long ago been singled out for acquisition by social media giant Facebook (FB) , in a deal that would have valued the drone-manufacturer at some $60 million.  Presumably, Google’s offer included a premium on the one from its rival, in a manner similar to how it swooped up mobile mapping firm Waze last year for $1 billion. The offer Google currently has on the table is not yet known, but it is noteworthy that Facebook’s purported ambitions were essentially same, preoccupied with the provision of internet connection services.

Both Facebook and Google have been on an acquisition spree over the last couple years, but while the latter tends to already have one or even more existing frameworks into which to fit these, the former often appears as though it is trying to make purchases designed to thwart its competition more than anything else.

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