It seems Silicon Valley has once again found a way to profit off of taxpayer funded technology. The drone industry, which has had massive amounts of R&D provided by US taxpayers, is taking off and now TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook wants in.
As part of its effort to bring in new customers Facebook helped create Internet.org an organization that advocates for the expansion of the internet. To further that effort Facebook is reportedly considering the purchase of Titan Aerospace which make “near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land.” The drones would provide internet access by acting as satellites.
From our understanding, Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa. The company would start by building 11,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically the “Solara 60″ model…
The designation of “satellites” is important here, as the idea has been to position these aircraft above the airspace that the FAA regulates in the U.S. Class A airspace ends at 60,000 feet stateside, and above that the U.S. doesn’t regulate, Fortune had pointed out last summer. That means the only issue in launching these in the U.S. would be the initial climb. In other parts of the world, the laws will, of course, vary. But in the developing markets Internet.org is focused on, it’s likely they’re not as far along in regulating such new technology.
Once again the developing world will be a laboratory for dubious new technology.
Titan has pushed the technology as not only facilitating communication but imaging. So perhaps as Facebook deploys its fleet of long-term drones all over parts of the developing world it might decide to share some data with its friends in the US government. Then again, with Facebook leading the way perhaps drones will become so ubiquitous in places that do not “regulated the new technology” that there will be a variety of sources of intelligence – it’s a panopticon world now.
Don’t worry Google is in on the aerial surveillance game too, just with balloons instead of drones. Soon everyone in the world will be on our grid and can enjoy our happiness.