Facebook is reportedly going to acquire Titan Aerospace, the drone manufacturer. The move is part of Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org plans to offer an online connection to the five billion people who don't have access. He's going to connect them using a network of drones that can stay in the air for five years at a time.
The rumoured acquisition comes from sources of Tech Crunch who have unauthorised access. Facebook apparently plans to build 11,000 of the Solara 60 drones to offer internet access to Africa initially.
These drones are "atmospheric satellites" meaning they have many capabilities. They can be used to monitor weather, map areas, assist in disaster recovery and offer communications. They could also be viewed as a giant Facebook eye in the sky that sees everything and everyone.
The Solara 60 is capable of over 4 million kilometres running on its solar power supply. Staying at 20km high the drone can remain in flight for five years. At 160kg it can carry a payload of 32kg - enough for plenty of camera and connectivity options. And cruising at 64mph it should be able to move and focus on an area easily. And since they fly over 60,000 feet they're outside of the airspace of most countries.
Facebook's project competes with Google's Project Loon which aims to offer connectivity using balloons. Facebook obviously wants to help connect Africa so its newly acquired WhatsApp service can start being used. Currently texting in Africa is used regularly, even for check-ups with the doctor.