Facebook Might Buy Drone Company

The New York Times reports:

With all his talk of better data compression and more efficient phone chips, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has had a bit of trouble getting people excited about Internet.org, his ambitious plan to get everyone in the world onto the Internet. Not anymore. The web was abuzz on Tuesday after a report in TechCrunch that Facebook was in negotiations to buy a manufacturer of drones, Titan Aerospace, for about $60 million. If a deal is completed, it will give Mr. Zuckerberg an intriguing new technology to further the cause of Internet.org. Titan’s drones, which resemble solar-powered airplanes, are designed to fly as high as 65,000 feet and stay aloft for as long as five years — essentially functioning like cheap satellites. They could blanket large areas with wireless Internet signals, although the signals would be slower and unable to handle as much data as land-based Internet connections. For remote places like rural Africa, they would be enough to provide at least rudimentary access to the Internet through mobile phones.

More from Quartz:

Having a drone fleet could also give Facebook more leverage with mobile carriers as it tries to secure “zero-rate” deals in the developing world, which would allow people to use Facebook without it counting against their data plans. Facebook contends that zero-rating its content actually encourages overall mobile phone usage and thus is profitable for carriers in the long run. But what if Facebook can bypass the carriers and offer mobile data services to developing markets with a futuristic fleet of high-flying solar-powered drones? A couple of years from now, when Facebook has yet another meeting with a mobile carrier in India, Nigeria, or Indonesia to talk about a zero-rate deal, the carrier would be offered an implicit choice: Cut us a deal or we release the drones.