Google acquires UAV builder Titan Aerospace

New Mexico-based Titan, which is developing the composites-intensive Solara 50 solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is expected to help Google provide Internet access in remote areas.

Google Inc. on April 14 acquired Titan Aerospace (Moriarity, N.M., USA), a manufacturer of solar-­powered, composites-intensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Google did not disclose the purchase price of Titan Aerospace, which is developing jet­-sized UAVs that are intended to fly nonstop for years. Google says the technology could be used to collect images and offer online access to remote areas.

It's hoped that UAVs like Titan's will be able to provide Internet access to parts of the world not served by telephone wires or mobile phone towers. Titan's Solara 50 craft, sometimes referred to as an atmospheric satellite, features 3,000 photovoltaic cells covering wings that span 50m/164 ft. The plane is designed to carry small payloads into the stratosphere at an altitude of about 20 km/65,000 ft. The plane features a carbon fiber composite frame and is expected to make its maiden flight in 2014, followed by commercial introduction in 2015.

Titan and its 20 employees will remain in New Mexico and the company would continue to be run by chief executive Vern Raburn. The Wall Street Journal reports that Titan also might work with Makani, another early ­stage Google project that is developing an airborne wind turbine that it hopes will generate electricity efficiently.