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Google Just Bought the Drone Company that Facebook Had Its Eye On

Titan Aerospace's Solara 50 aircraft

Titan Aerospace's Solara 50 aircraft // Titan Aerospace/AP

Google swept in and agreed to buy Titan Aerospace, a high-altitude drone manufacturer, on Monday, months after Facebook had entered into talks to buy the company. Titan, based in New Mexico, will go to Google for an undisclosed sum.

The Wall Street Journal's report on the sale notes that the drone maker will help Google with its "Project Loon" initiative, which looks to provide internet access to remote areas using large high-altitude balloons. In a statement, Google said: 

"It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation." 

The purchase was the subject of rumors last week,  after months of speculation that Facebook would buy the solar-powered drone company for its own, similar internet access initiative. Titan's solar-powered drones are known for their ability to stay in the air for years without needing to land, making them ideal for the sorts of projects both Facebook and Google have in mind. Techcrunch has a nice summary of the Facebook rumors, here. Both projects, as the Journal notes, are in part aimed at introducing a specific company to new internet users simultaneously with access to a high-speed  connection. Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp was also seen by many as an effort to get in early on a relatively untapped market for the company. 

Here's one of Titan's solar drones in action: 

Facebook has since indicated its intention to buy the UK company Ascenta, for $20 million. According to TechCrunch, the estimated price for a possible Facebook purchase of Titan was around $60 million, so it's possible Google trumped that by quite a bit.

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