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Game of Drones: Google Beats Facebook to Titan

Updated: 04/25/2014 @ 4:21pm

In what seems to be a game of drones among tech giants, Google recently announced it has purchased Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico-based unmanned aerial system developer. This comes on the heels of rumors that Facebook has long been pursuing the drone developer.

So what's the appeal? It's simple - Titan's work on bringing Internet access to remote areas. The possibility of stretching the Internet to an estimated 5 billion people still cut off from the rest of the world is no doubt a coup for Google. While it's not clear how far along Titan is in developing aircraft to accomplish this goal, they did say they expect to have planes in initial commercial operations by 2015.

The company also claims its aircraft can deliver Internet speeds at up to 1 gigabit per second. Compared to the national average today - 18.2 megabits - Titan's speed is light years ahead.

Titan employs thin, solar panel-covered aircraft that convert sunlight into fuel. There are two models - the Solara 50 and Solara 60 - under development. Both are capable of flying for five years without having to refuel.

A Google spokesperson says the Titan planes will work closely with Google's Project Loon, which is working on high-altitude balloons that will broadcast Internet connectivity to closed-off areas of the world.

In addition, the company may use the devices to collect images from high above Earth to help with its Google Earth and Google Maps.

That's not to say Facebook is out of the game. Last month CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company had spent around $20 million to purchase Ascenta. They, too, develop high-altitude solar-powered drones geared toward increasing global connectivity.

The real question: Who will be first to the finish line to employ the technology?

Back in the world of agriculture, companies like RoboFlight are gearing up to take advantage of the potential drones hold for our industry. The Colorado-based company recently acquired Aerial Precision Ag, a manufacturer of agricultural unmanned aerial systems.

Not only will this company offer agriculture drones but data analytics to decipher the added information these devices will collect. By making data analytics part of their business capabilities, it can help influence and answer the questions that have been so elusive to farmers for far too long.

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