Time to hop on the drone bandwagon — before it flies off without you.
Facebook, in a deal first reported by TechCrunch and CNBC, is buying drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million. It may not be anywhere close to the $19 billion Mark Zuckerberg spent on messaging service WhatsApp, but it could be another important piece in Facebook’s mission to bring the Internet (and therefore Facebook) to the developing world.
Facebook follows Amazon and Google into the robotics fray with this purchase. Amazon, who bought Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012 to put robots in its distribution centers, debuted its “Prime Air” service to deliver products by drone last December. Google bought robotics firm Boston Dynamics around the same time and has been refining its self-driving car technology.
Each tech giant sees robotics as the wave of the future, although the companies are using the technology to varying ends. Facebook’s goal could be to provide wireless Internet to under-served parts of the globe. Titan Aerospace makes solar-powered drones that can fly for as long as five years at near-orbital heights. These drones can relay communications and take on other jobs usually performed by satellites, at a fraction of the cost.
While the purchase signals possible growth potential for Facebook (the social network’s stock is up 1.6% on the day), it also looks good for other independent robotics companies that could be snapped up in future deals. iRobot stock, for example, is up 2.99% on the day, and over 25% year to date.