On the second day of its F8 conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco, Facebook has reportedly announced its plan to use a drone to beam the Internet down to billions of people around the world. Also Read - WhatsApp announces rollout of end-to-end encrypted backups for Android, iOS
Codenamed Aquila, the drone had wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767 aircraft but uses lightweight materials that allow it to measure less than a car, reported TechCrunch. Also Read - Facebook launches Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses alongside new Facebook View app
The social media giant said that the drone had to be incredibly light as it’s going to be kept aloft for as long as three months at a time using solar power. Aquila will push internet access down to people 60,000-90,000 feet below using lasers, and will also maintain contact between drones to maintain coverage across wider regions. Also Read - WhatsApp multi-device for iPad users in the works, release expected soon
Facebook said that it will begin testing flights this summer but added that a broader rollout could take several years.
Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg had to say:
As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we’ve designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky.
Today, I’m excited to share that we’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK.
The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time.
Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure.