For the second time in less than a month, a major Internet-related company has acquired a firm developing a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which could serve as a node to provide Internet connectivity from the stratosphere. On April 14, Google confirmed that it has acquired Titan Aerospace of Moriarty, N.M., developer of the Solara “atmospheric satellite.”
In late March, social media site Facebook paid $20 million to acquire Ascenta-Aerospace of Yeovil, Somerset, UK, which is also developing a HALE UAS. Prior to that acquisition, media reports said Facebook was negotiating to buy Titan Aerospace.
Google did not disclose the price it paid for Titan Aerospace or provide details of its plans. It emailed the following statement: “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. 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. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.” Titan Aerospace posted a similar statement on its website.
Originally a privately held firm supported by venture capital, Titan Aerospace unveiled its planned Solara family of solar-powered UAS at the Unmanned Systems 2013 conference in Washington, D.C., last August. The principals said they were working toward obtaining FAA experimental certification of a scaled-down version of the aircraft to begin flight tests. In October, the firm named former Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn as its chairman and CEO.