On Monday, Google announced it was buying drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace. In March, Facebook bought Ascenta, a similar company based in the UK. As we wait to see which drone company Twitter will acquire, it makes sense to ask the question: why are internet giants buying UAV companies?
Commercial drones aren’t even (technically) legal in the US! What does Silicon Valley want with this essentially unproven tech?
The answer is connectivity. Google’s Project Loon and Facebook’s Connectivity Lab are both being developed with the sole purpose of bringing the internet to those who don’t have it and drastically increasing internet speed for those who do. The US Department of Defense has given a similar mandate to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with the intention to provide Wi-Fi hotspots to soldiers deployed overseas.
Drones, especially the Titan and Ascenta drones, are singularly suited for this functionality. They run on solar power, require very little maintenance, and can fly for years.
Make no mistake, GoogleBook (referring to them separately is exhausting) is establishing a claim to the telecommunications space and drones are a significant step in that direction.
Interestingly, there has been no noise about drone tech from the current big players in telecom. It stands to reason that a company like Verizon or Comcast should be championing this movement. If Amazon says its going to be delivering packages by drone, shouldn’t Time Warner have jumped on the bandwagon and announced a plan to try and salvage the clusterf*** that is acquiring a decent internet connection in Manhattan? Sure, Time Warner recently announced a new service to bump internet speeds, but the installation of this program (TWC Maxx) is simply looking to upgrade an aged system.
GoogleBook is looking to build a new system.
Consider Google Fiber, which, like the Titan drones, boasts internet speeds upwards of 1 gigabit per second (as a point of reference, both Comcast’s and Time Warner’s current premium internet service caps at about 100 megabits per second). The fiber optic network has been finding itself stonewalled in major markets since its inception and getting the FCC to do anything about it is worse than pulling teeth. The purchase of Titan Aerospace seems to be Google’s way of saying “if we can’t go through you, we will go over you” to big telecom.
Its not too late, but this moment won’t last forever. Already companies like notorious torrenting site ThePirateBay are looking at drones as the next step in internet connectivity. The last thing big telecom would want is to let someone like Megaupload founder (and internet hero) Kim Dotcom to establish himself in this emerging market.
Because this is what the rise of the drone means. The early adopters, in this case GoogleBook, are going to write the new rule book and dictate how drones enter our daily lives. It may start with telecom, but the applications of this tech are endless.
Google and Facebook understand that solving today’s problems tomorrow gets us nowhere. We have to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Commercial UAVs are not an upgrade to network.
They are not add-ons to existing technology and they can’t be pigeon-holed into the existing rule book.
Commercial drones are not part of the problem to be solved. They are part of the solution to the problem.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com