Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President at Google, announced at Mobile World Congress that the company’s Internet relay drones will hold their initial test flights by the end of the year.
Google acquired the drone company Titan Aerospace in April of 2014, and Pichai stated that Titan’s drones are in the initial stages, like Project Loon was a couple years ago. Both Project Loon and the Titan lightweight solar-powered drone are part of Google’s initiative to bring the Internet to underserviced areas, like developing nations.
The drone can fly in the stratosphere, stay aloft for up to five years at a time, and potentially beam down a localized Internet signal. Pichai hopes that in conjunction with Project Loon the Titan drones can provide Internet service to the 4 billion people worldwide who don’t have it.
The Titan drones feature more than just Internet delivery; they could also provide crop monitoring as well as search and rescue applications. In his talk, Pichai hinted that the drones would be capable of providing Internet coverage to disaster areas when on-the-ground infrastructure has been compromised.
Google bought Titan after Facebook made an offer of $60 million, so Facebook eventually settled on European competitor Ascenta for $20 million instead.