Google Buying Satellite Vendor Skybox Imaging for $500M

The Skybox purchase will be used by Google to improve Google Maps with Skybox's high-resolution satellite imagery.

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Satellite and satellite imaging vendor Skybox Imaging is being acquired by Google for $500 million as Google continues to buy businesses that it believes will grow and bolster its expanding services and research.

The purchase of Skybox was announced by Google in a statement on June 10, following a string of other acquisitions in May. "Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," while "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," according to the statement.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other "customary closing conditions," so no final transaction date has been announced.

In its own statement posted on its home page, Skybox said that its acquisition by Google will widen the scope of the company's work. Skybox Imaging is located in Mountain View, Calif., where Google's headquarters is also located.

"Five years ago, we began the Skybox journey to revolutionize access to information about the changes happening across the surface of the Earth," the Skybox statement said. "We've made great strides in the pursuit of that vision. We've built and launched the world's smallest high­-resolution imaging satellite, which collects beautiful and useful images and video every day. We have built an incredible team and empowered them to push the state­-of­-the-­art in imaging to new heights. The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision."

The two companies "share more than just a Zip code," the statement continued. "We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we're both willing to tackle problems head on—whether it's building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch."

Founded in 2009, Skybox Imaging builds satellites and software in the pursuit of scalable computing and analytics to help find answers to the world's most important geospatial problems regardless of data source, according to the company.

Asked by eWEEK for comments about the Skybox deal, a Google spokesperson declined to discuss the purchase further. A spokesperson for Skybox also declined to comment on the deal.

The Skybox purchase follows a string of other acquisitions by Google in the last few months.

In May 2014, Google bought mobile device management vendor Divide for an undisclosed price to help bolster and increase enterprise use of its Android-powered mobile devices in workplaces by offering increased security and compliance controls for businesses.

Also in May, Google announced the purchase of Stackdriver, a Boston-based company that was started in 2012 to provide cloud application monitoring and data visualization services to users. On the same day, Google acquired Appetas, which helps restaurants build, maintain, promote and grow specialized Websites that serve the needs of the food industry. Google is shuttering Appetas as part of the purchase.

On May 6, Google acquired Adometry, a marketing and advertising optimization company that uses software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based advanced analytics to process and analyze tens of billions of impressions and advertising transactions per month to identify what consumers are buying.

In April 2014, Google announced that it was getting into the high-altitude drone business with its purchase of Titan Aerospace in a move that is closely linked to Google's Project Loon efforts, which use high-altitude balloons to build a high-speed Internet network. High-altitude Internet networks have been on Google's radar since the company launched its Project Loon experiments in 2013, according to earlier eWEEK reports.

Project Loon uses a series of high-altitude balloons to build a high-speed Internet network that could be used to bring affordable Internet service to far-flung locations around the world for the first time, according to Google. The experiment is being touted as a high-tech way to create Internet connections for two-thirds of the people in the world who currently don't have Internet access due to high costs and the difficulty of stringing connections in rural and far-flung parts of the world.

The Loon concepts were first tested in June 2013 in an experimental pilot project in Christchurch and Canterbury in New Zealand, where 50 volunteer testers worked to connect with the balloons high above, according to Google. The New Zealand pilot tests showed that the concept could work and confirmed that balloon-powered Internet may be a viable approach, so Google is now doing testing in California to try to replicate and grow that initial success.