Google is buying Titan Aerospace, which manufactures solar-powered drones, in an effort to bring Internet access to the five billion people worldwide who don't have access, as well as helping to solve other global problems.
Google announced that it had acquired the drone company on Monday, noting that its atmospheric satellites could also be used in disaster relief and assessing environmental damage. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Before the acquisition, Titan's website cited a wide range of uses for the drones, including atmospheric and weather monitoring, disaster response and voice and data communications.
"There are a lot of ways that we think we could help people, whether it's providing internet connections in remote areas or helping monitor environmental damage like oil spills and deforestation," Titan's website stated after the deal was announced. "That's why we couldn't be more excited to learn from and work with our new colleagues as we continue our research, testing and design work as part of the Google family."
Still in development, the solar-powered drones can stay in the air for as long as five years without refueling or landing. First launched at night using internal battery power, these drones soak up enough energy from the son to ascend to about 2.5 miles above sea level -- more than three miles above commercial and military jets.
Previous reports said that Facebook was in talks to acquire New Mexico-based Titan last month. However, it acquired U.K.-based solar drone company Ascenta instead, hiring "key members of the team," as CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it, to work at Facebook.
Google and Facebook have both launched ambitious projects that aim to get everyone on the planet connected online. Google's Project Loon sends giant balloons bearing Internet-beaming antennas into the stratosphere. Facebook, meanwhile, leads Internet.org, a coalition of companies that wants to get everyone in the world access to basic Internet service.
Zuckerberg said late last month that Facebook is working on building its first high-altitude drone to broadcast Internet signals.
"With the efficiency and endurance of high altitude drones, it's even possible that aircraft could remain aloft for months or years," Zuckerberg wrote in an online post on March 28. "This means drones have more endurance than balloons, while also being able to have their location precisely controlled."