The Solara 50, one of the solar-powered drones unveiled last August by Titan Aerospace.
Facebook is in talks to acquire Titan Aerospace, the maker of a solar-powered high-altitude drone that can stay aloft for five years, according to a TechCrunch report.
The acquisition would reportedly further the efforts of Internet.org, a coalition of mobile technology companies spearheaded by Facebook that is working to bring Internet access to the 5 billion or so people around the world without it. The acquisition is valued at $60 million, a source “with access to information about the deal” told TechCrunch.
Facebook is interested in dispatching some 11,000 unmanned aerial vehicles over parts of the globe that lack Internet access, beginning in Africa, according to the report. The company is said to be especially interested in the Solara 60, a featherweight aircraft built of composite materials that the New Mexico-based company claims can maintain an altitude of 65,000 feet for years without refueling, thanks to thousands of solar cells blanketing the aircraft.
The plane, which was unveiled at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference last August, can carry up to 250 pounds of gear, such as wireless communications equipment that could help fulfill the goal of Internet.org — providing a set of basic services such as messaging, weather, food prices, Wikipedia, and Facebook, of course, to anyone regardless of whether they pay for a data connection.