Google buys satellite company for Maps, Internet access

Google pays $500M for Skybox Imaging to boost Google Maps and access during disasters

Google has signed a deal to buy Skybox Imaging, a Mountain, View, California-based satellite company, for $500 million in cash.

Google confirmed the acquisition Tuesday and said that Skybox Imaging satellites will be used for Google Maps and to provide critical Internet access for areas hit by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

Maps is Google's popular desktop and mobile application service that provides satellite imagery, street maps, and Street View perspectives, as well as navigation planning for traveling by foot, car, bicycle or public transportation.

"We've agreed to acquire Skybox Imaging, and we look forward to welcoming them to Google," a company spokesperson said in an email to Computerworld. "Their satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. 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."

This isn't Google's first foray into the satellite industry.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Google, which has been experimenting with high-altitude balloons, has been working with O3b Networks to launch a fleet of low-Earth-orbit satellites to provide low-cost Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.

Google reportedly plans to spend between $1 billion and $3 billion to initially bring 180 high-capacity satellites in orbit at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

Big tech companies are interested in bringing Internet access, and with it their services, to less connected parts of the globe. Google already has been working to deliver Internet access to remote areas with Project Loon, a fleet of balloons floating in the stratosphere to avoid planes and nasty weather conditions.

In April, Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a company known for making solar-powered drones, beating rival Facebook for the New Mexico-based company.

This article, Google buying satellites for Maps, Internet access, was originally published at

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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