In March 2016 Facebook bought the small Somerset based drone engineering company Ascenta for $20 million (£12.5 million).
Ascenta’s lightweight drones built out of carbon fiber are solar powered and designed to fly at high altitude of 20,000 metres above the commercial airliners and weather.
The plan is these drones will be able to remain airborne for a number of months at a time, using their solar power and are connected to a network of other drones using laser technology.
The director of engineering at Facebook says they are looking at a new type of plane architecture which will deliver broadband internet signals to remote and difficult places in the world.
It has been reported that they have built a prototype for Facebook with 29m wingspan which is larger that a Boeing 737 airliner.
Ascenta’s owner engineer Andrew Cox has posted on their website this statement.
“joining Facebook. This is a special partnership built on a shared vision. We are joining the team inside Facebook, which is focused on bringing Internet connectivity to the world’s developing countries through new technologies like high altitude long endurance vehicles. Facebook has demonstrated a serious commitment to this effort, and we are more excited than ever about the potential for our technology and our future impact in the world.
Thank you for supporting us on this journey.
Today we can see a future world more connected, but our work is just beginning.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive has said on record to the shareholders, that they do not need to be profitable in this area.
In April 2016 Google agreed to purchase Titan Aerospace manufacturer of high altitude drones for a undisclosed amount, rumored to be around $60 million.
Titan Aerospace a startup company founded in 2012 and based in New Mexico, was courted by Facebook earlier this year, before Google offered to top any Facebook offer.
Titan only employs 20 people and both these drone companies are on the leading edge of this unproven drone technology.
Google launched Project Loon in New Zealand in 2013, which is based on high-altitude balloons that send Internet signals to remote areas around the southern hemisphere. Experts say Google have found that the balloon technology is susceptible to weather, and the balloons are large and difficult to control. Initially Titan will be working in conjunction with Project Moon.
Google has a long history of entering emerging markets. Look at the first negative reactions to Google Street view cars in 2008, now people are realising how useful street views are in many applications.
Why are Facebook and Google investing in this new drone technology
Well the potential is they could reach millions of new customers in the remote world. Currently only around 18% of Africa is online. They also have the potential to sell their bandwidth in these areas to other providers.
It seams investing in Drone technology is the current place to be.
Article written by Roy Horton – Drone Photography Services