Google hones in on drones, gets FCC OK for tests

It looks as though Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) plan to use solar-powered drones to deliver Internet access just got a boost. The FCC recently approved two licenses so that Google can run tests over the next six months in a 520-square-mile area east of Albuquerque, N.M., Computerworld reports.

Titan Aerospace, the drone-maker acquired last year by Google to help realize the project, was the entity that applied for and received the licenses from the FCC. Titan Aerospace's headquarters are in Moriarty, N.M., which is included in the test area identified in the FCC application.

Loon New Zealand

A Google Loon balloon floats over New Zealand during a 2013 test. (Source: Google)

Called "Project Titan," the drones are expected to work alongside Google's Project Loon balloons to deliver connectivity to areas that need additional capacity, such as those hit by a natural disaster.

Speaking at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week, Google's "Captain of Moonshots" Astro Teller touched on the search giant's progress with Project Loon. He shared some of the lessons learned, such as the fact that "very fluffy socks" help minimize friction when the balloons' engineers need to step on the balloon's envelope during the balloon-building process. That helps prevent tiny holes from forming and ensuing leaks, according to a Flip the Media report.

During his keynote on the last day of the Interactive portion of South by Southwest, Teller said the secret to building the ambitious projects at Google X, such as Project Loon and self-driving cars, is not to craft them in secret but to take them out into the real world and watch them succeed or fail, according to Mashable. In order to make progress, "you have to make a ton of mistakes," he said.

No doubt, Google is learning more every day as its balloons occasionally crash in unexpected places--at least, they're unexpected for area residents. Civil defense workers recently found one of the fallen balloons in a remote area in central Mexico, according to reports. Last year, a sheep farmer in Africa discovered one of the balloons in a field. Google has a recovery team that goes out to the remote areas to collect the remains.

For more:
- see this Computerworld article
- see this Flip the Media article
- see this Mashable article
- CBS/Associated Press has this report

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