The devices are far less expensive than traditional satellites, and can return to earth for maintenance or to swap out payloads, the company has said previously.
It’s easy to imagine the technology bolstering an array of the Mountain View search giant’s product and research areas, including Google Earth, Google Maps and Project Loon, the company’s effort to connect the developing world online through high-altitude balloons.
Google filed paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration. This includes two unmanned aerial vehicles. Engadget first spotted the filings believed to belong to Project Wing, which is part of the drone delivery service Google X. Google X chief Astro Teller said his team was reworking its drone design after some failed flight trials.
Turns out, the FAA paperwork is for another Google drone project.
Project Titan, the product of Google’s acquisition of the aerospace company last year. So the FAA, which is currently late on its deadline for national drone regulation, would be approving flying things that Google has said it will use for providing Internet access and data harvesting related to problems like deforestation. With Titan, Google competes with Facebook, unlike delivery of goods via drone, where Google will, conceivably, compete with Amazon.
Google bought the company after it was widely reported Facebook had made an offer. Both were interested in the drone's ability to stay aloft for long periods of time with little energy and to carry a payload capable of providing internet connectivity to people down below.
Pichai says Titan is about where Project Loon, Google high altitude balloons, was a couple of years ago. The Titan team is building a new type of super lightweight solar-powered airplane that would be capable of hovering in one area of the stratosphere. This could provide a way to beam internet down to a targeted area on the ground below, supplement existing services with extra bandwidth, or providing access in an area that’s suddenly offline, like after an earthquake or other disaster.
Loon and Titan could complement each other, providing what Pichai described as a mesh of flying cell towers circling overhead. While the balloons can be tricky to steer and cover a wide area, Titan aircraft could be maneuvered to provide capacity to particular areas based on demand. In both instances, Google's plan is to partner with carriers to provide overlapping service to people on the ground so that they don't have to worry about exactly where it's coming from. Pichai said the hope is to begin connecting some of the roughly 4 billion people on earth who currently don't have reliable internet access.