Google announced on Monday that it had acquired Titan Aerospace, placing it in competition with Facebook to expand global Internet access using drone technology.
Google did not say how much the acquisition cost.
Titan Aerospace, based in the US state of New Mexico, is developing solar-powered drones that can run for five years at an altitude of 19,812 meters (65,000 feet). The drones look like gliders and have a wingspan of 50 meters (164 feet). The technology is expected to be ready for commercial operations by 2015.
"It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring Internet access to millions of people and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation," a Google spokesman said in a press release.
Facebook was also reportedly interested in acquiring Titan, but opted instead to buy Ascenta, a British company that specializes in solar-powered drones. The acquisition cost $20 million (14 million euros).
Google is also developing Project Loon, which aims to transmit the Internet to remote locations via large, high-altitude balloons. Titan Aerospace will also work on Project Loon, according to Google.
slk/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)