Google is buying drone maker Titan Aerospace, a startup maker of high-altitude drones, reports the WS Journal. Google didn’t disclose a purchase price for Titan, of Moriarty, N.M., whose solar-powered drones are intended to fly for months at a time.
Facebook was also reportedly looking to buy Titan Aerospace, and was rumored to offer $60 million to buy Titan, but ultimately bought Ascenta, for $20 million. Ascenta is a U.K.-based aerospace company that also is developing solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles.
Titan’s Solara 60 can carry a payload of 250 lbs while the Solara 50 maxes out at 85 kilograms (187 lbs). As a broadband relay, it could provide coverage over about 17,000 square kilometers, an area equivalent to the reach of more than 100 cellular towers. Titan says it aims to sell the Solara for around US $1 million and already has customers lined up to buy the first three in early 2014. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has sent a letter to the FAA encouraging the agency to allow limited unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.
As a communications relay, the Solara offers about an 18-mile radius of coverage easily covering all of New York City’s five boroughs, as shown in the map above. Of course 10 million people can’t simultaneously access one cell tower 12 miles away.
Facebook’s Yael Maguire explained some of its plans for low earth orbit satellite and solar powered drones. Facebook estimates that some 5 billion people — or two-thirds of the world — are without Internet access, and it wants to change that. Internet.org said it is working with Ascenta, in the UK that specializes in high-altitude long-endurance aircraft.
Google recently demonstrated how its Loon prototype balloons could traverse the globe. Drones could provide connectivity and imagery with a higher degree of control. Google also bought Boston Dynamics and seven other robotics companies under Andy Rubin.
Outernet hopes to use datacasting technology over a low-cost CubeSat constellation. The startup says it will be able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy, and offer a universally-accessible information service at no cost to global citizens. Outernet’s motto is “Information for the world from outer space.” The startup says the entire constellation utilizes globally-accepted, standards-based protocols, such as DVB-S2, Digital Radio Mondiale, and UDP-based WiFi multicasting.
Planet Labs wants to create – essentially – a live view version of Google Earth. Four satellites were launched February 2013 in what is expected to become a steady stream of miniature satellites ejected from the ISS.
Located at 78 degrees north latitude, SvalSat is the world’s only established commercial station capable of downlinking on every satellite orbit. The Svalbard facility offers a high speed backhaul link via redundant fiber optic cables to transmit all data to exactEarth’s data center in Canada.
SES announced today that they have signed a capacity and ground satellite deal to provide SES’s NSS-9 satellite to provide connectivity to the Italian research station located at Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. SPIE has a collection of Remote Sensing articles.
Near-space platforms at 12 miles (20K meters/65K feet) are 20 times closer than a typical 400-kilometer LEO satellite at 250 miles. High altitude UAVs can stare — 24/7 — without blinking or human needs. Mercury’s sigint computers are powered by nVidia GPUs and Intel processors for TeraFLOPS processing.
IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces. Perhaps the NRO and Aerospace.org will become obsolete if UAVs can deliver the goods faster, cheaper and better.
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