There are still places in the world that do not know what the internet is, and Facebook has made it their mission to let them know about it. With projects like Internet.org spreading fast across the globe to serve less developed countries by providinf free basic access to some of the websites there, with the help of local mobile operators in those countries. We may now see Facebook provide free internet access through drones placed in (above?) very remote areas.
The solar powered drone has been code-named Aquila, and is set to be launched some time in the future as for now Facebook has just released the prototype model.
Facebook plans to link the drones over an area in a rural setting and they will transmit data to a local central base station on the ground. Just as they had done with Internet.org, they will also work with local internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver this internet access to rural areas.
Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice-president of engineering, said: “Our mission is to connect everybody in the world. This is going to be a great opportunity for us to motivate the industry to move faster on this technology.”
The drone prototype is 42m long, covers a radius of 50km around it, has solar panels on the top surface which power the motor, and is made of carbonfibre which is lighter than aluminium but stronger than steel.
Watch the video below for a sneak peak inside Facebook’s Connectivity Lab working on Aquila:
One of Aquila’s design engineers Andy Cox said, “We’ve probably had a look at about five or six different sizes of aircraft. It got bigger every time. I did have quite a nervous day one day when we decide to make it 42m. We had to check if the building was big enough. If we get the aircraft to fly reliably, then we’re well on the road to begin able to deliver the internet to a lot of people.”
The drones are made to stay afloat for about 3 months and communicate using laser beams to the ground station, providing data speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, which is very fast!
I don’t expect to see this technology coming into production just yet but when it does, it will do a whole lot for the over 60% of the global population currently without internet access.
Read more on the Aquila drone project by Connectivity Lab here.