TORONTO – Google is gearing up to test its solar-powered drone project – dubbed “Project Titan” – sometime this year as part of its continued efforts to bring service to some of the four billion people without Internet access.
Sundar Pichai, a senior VP at Google who oversees Android, Chrome and Google apps, made the announcement during a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday. Pichai said the lightweight drones will serve as remote satellites for areas without Internet service.
According to Pichai, the drones will be able to hover over areas and act as a hot spot to supply web connections to those below.
Google also plans to use the drones in areas that have been knocked offline during natural disasters or weather incidents.
The drones are being developed by Titan Aerospace, which Google acquired in April 2014 amid rumours that Facebook was looking into purchasing the company.
Both Facebook and Google have ambitious plans to bring the Internet to areas without access.
In March of last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is working to build drones, satellites and lasers that will help “to beam Internet to people from the sky.”
Facebook’s plans also include using solar-powered drones in suburban areas in limited geographical regions for reliable Internet connections.
Google is also working on its Project Loon, which involves sending giant balloons bearing Internet-beaming antennas into the stratosphere. Project Loon’s technology is said to deliver service to greater regions, where Project Titan’s drones would focus on more specific areas.
Project Loon has been undergoing testing in Australia and South America.
Google has also extended its foray into drones with Project Wing – an effort to develop a fleet of drones designed to deliver packages.