Google's $500M Skybox buy could fuel Internet access or satellite imaging efforts

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced it will pay $500 million in cash to acquire Skybox Imaging, but there is a great deal of debate over what it will actually use the satellite imaging company's technology for. "Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," the search giant said in a statement. "Over time, we also hope that Skybox's team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief--areas Google has long been interested in."

One possibility is that in time, Google could use Skybox to launch relatively inexpensive satellites as part of a wider effort to expand Internet access, something Google's Project Loon is already attempting to do via balloons, especially in rural areas or developing countries. In April Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, which could serve a similar purpose.

However, Businessweek notes that the more likely scenario is for Google to move from being a buyer of satellite imagery to a supplier. The company could eventually use a fleet of Skybox satellites to provide constantly updating imagery for agriculture energy or financial companies. "Skybox will not be a commercial company; it will be a NASA for Google," Brock Adam McCarty, who runs image reselling business Apollo Mapping, told BusinessweekArticle