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Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace

Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot

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Updated Web giant Google is buying Titan Aerospace, presumably to help it blanket the world in internet connectivity beamed from drones and balloons.

The acquisition was reported by the WSJ on Monday, and will see the Titan Aerospace team work with Google's "Project Loon" group which makes high-altitude balloons for dispensing cheap internet to rural areas.

Titan Aerospace makes solar-powered drones that fly at heights of up to 19.8km above sea level. The New Mexico startup says its drones may be able to fly continuously for years at a time thanks to rechargeable batteries fed by solar panels on the aircrafts' wings, but it has not demonstrated this yet.

The company was previously wooed by the internet's other big advertizing kahuna: Facebook. At the time, the Mark Zuckerberg-run social network was reportedly keen to snap up 11,000 Solara 60 drones from Titan Aerospace for its own world-spanning internet project.

Facebook instead ended up hiring a team from UK high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft company Ascenta to develop similar technology, as it seeks to build out its own private global internet network. In a subsequent white paper, the social network's boss Mark Zuckerberg wrote that he thought drones, not Loon-style balloons, were the best bet for covering the world's rural areas in internet.

Now it seems that Google has come around to the same point of view. Some of the projects Titan Aerospace's team could be put to work on include data gathering to support Google Maps, systems to support far-flung voice and data services, and more.

This acquisition follows Google's buy of a spread of robot companies last year to help it develop technologies for airborne data gathering, factory work, and automobile logistics. It also bought Boston Dynamics, which made killer robots for DARPA. [Google's press team has been rather quiet about that part as the company's "Don't be evil" slogan looks a bit odd if plastered on the side of a killer military robot.—Ed].

With Titan Aerospace, Google has taken one step closer to the creation of our [Berserk—Ed.] suspected GATAMAM system.

For unfamiliar readers, a GATAMAM is a Google All Terrain Automated Mapper and Analyzer and Manipulator, which the ad company will use to slurp in vast amounts of data to support its services, while doling out connectivity and local services as well.

At the time of writing Google had not responded to a request for further information. ®

Update

Shortly after noon Pacific Time, Titan Aerospace updated its website with the news that the WSJ's report was indeed correct. "We're thrilled to announce that Titan Aerospace is joining Google," they write.

"At Titan Aerospace, we're passionate believers in the potential for technology (and in particular, atmospheric satellites) to improve people's lives. It's still early days for the technology we're developing, and there are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it's providing internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation. That's why we couldn't be more excited to learn from and work with our new colleagues as we continue our research, testing and design work as part of the Google family."

At about the same time, a Google spokesman emailed us: "Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world," he wrote in part. "It's why we're so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family."

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