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on Monday acquired a maker of solar-powered drones—a startup that Facebook
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had also considered acquiring—as the technology giants battle to extend their influence and find new users in the far corners of the earth. Google didn't disclose the purchase price for New Mexico-based Titan Aerospace, which is developing jet-sized drones that are intended to fly nonstop for years. Google said the technology could be used to collect images and offer online access to remote areas.
Facebook had been in talks to buy Titan earlier this year, but Google offered to top any Facebook offer, according to a person familiar with the matter. Facebook later agreed to pay $20 million for Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace company that also has been working on solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles.
The drone makers are on the leading edge of a promising but largely unproven technology to beam Internet access to parts of the world not served by telephone wires or cellphone towers. However, industry observers say there are still technical challenges to overcome. Even Amazon.com
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which is developing less sophisticated aerial vehicles for short-hop deliveries, says its drones remain four or five years in the future before regular use.
Titan and its roughly 20 employees would stay in New Mexico and the company would continue to be run by Chief Executive Vern Raburn, a technology-industry veteran who previously headed Symantec
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Founded in 2012, the Moriarty, N.M., aerospace company confirmed its sale to Google on its website on Monday, and referred further media inquiries to Google's press office. Google said Titan would work closely with its Project Loon, which is building large, high-altitude balloons that send Internet signals to areas of the world that are currently not online. Titan also may work with Makani, another early-stage Google project that is developing an airborne wind turbine that it hopes will generate electricity efficiently.