Google is getting closer to officially launching its solar-powered drone program Project Titan and will send its first fleet into the sky sometime this year.
Sundar Pichai, senior VP at Google who oversees Android, Chrome and Google apps, took to the stage Monday at Mobile World Congress to outline how the company is working on three big programs aimed at connecting some of the 4 billion people currently without Internet access.
Pichai said Project Titan will fly lightweight solar-powered airplanes to serve as remote satellites. The company — which acquired Titan in 2014, following rumors that Facebook was pursuing the start-up — will use the drones to hover above certain areas and supply connectivity to locations below. It could also serve spots that have been kicked offline due to natural disasters.
Pichai said Project Titan is at the same stage where Project Loon was two years ago. Similarly, Loon involves sending balloons into the sky to serve as floating cell towers, but it covers greater regions from above (Titan focuses more on specific, narrower areas).
Loon involves sending balloons into the sky to serve as floating cell towers, but it covers greater regions from above (Titan focuses more on specific, narrower areas). Loon has already undergone testing in Australia and South America and is heavily working with partners to get it off the ground, he added.
“When I first heard the idea, I thought it was a crazy idea, and these balloons are really big,” Pichai said. “The notion that you can run these things to scale, which sounds like science fiction… but we will see a lot of progress in the next few years where we can turn it into a real service for users.”
Google’s third program called Project Blank started a year ago and aims to bring connectivity to rural and urban areas across the world.
“We built a fiber network and worked with local providers to provide 4G services,” Pichai said. “We are going to roll out Project Plank to Africa this year.”
Pichai said that the move for big companies like Facebook and its Internet.org initiative to get more people in remote regions to access the web is a strong and important step