Facebook’s most ambitious project, Internet.org, is no longer news – but the giant tech company has finally announced the next stage of the initiative that wants to spread the internet service to remote areas around the world.
Later this year, Facebook has received authorization to begin test flights with a solar-powered drone. If you’re imagining a small camera-type of drone, you couldn’t be farther from the truth, because this particular device was designed to have the wingspan of a Boeing 737.
With a weight less than 1,000 pounds, the drone built by Facebook engineers is most impressive drone that will use lasers to beam out internet signals to stations that will already be set in place on the ground.
The scheduled test flights are part of a broader project through which Facebook plans on using their own satellites and other advanced gear in order to reach more hundreds of millions of people with internet connectivity.
Facebook wants to get this program running especially in the regions where people are too secluded for conventional service to reach them. At the same time, Google – Facebook’s top competitor – is also experimenting with a program which includes high-altitude balloons and satellites for similar goals.
Yael Maguire, director of the department responsible for the company’s projects dealing with satellites, drones and communication, said that the system Facebook has developed for this initiative should be able to hit a dime coin from 11 miles away – an impressive accuracy, even if it’s only in theory so far.
On a related note, Facebook is also working on a project that wants to provide free limited mobile internet service in poor countries where residents cannot afford the traditional subscription plans.
Meanwhile, reporters were invited to hear about how the Internet.org project is progressing, and how close is the company to providing internet service to the 10 percent of the world’s population who live in remote areas. The biggest obstacles in the building of the usual infrastructure in these regions are impracticality and high expenditure.
Highly regarded expertise in the matter of designing the drone was offered by Ascenta, an aerospace startup from UK that Facebook acquired last year. With help from their engineers, Facebook ended up with a light-weight drone with layers of carbon fiber that protect it from frosty cold temperatures at high altitudes.
The plan is to lift each drone with helium balloons, which can take them as high as 90,000 feet – out of the way of thunderstorms and commercial airliners. Each drone is designed to cover about three kilometers, which should beam out internet service for roughly 50 kilometers on the ground.
According to Mr. Parikh, Facebook is not looking to keep the technology to itself, hoping to share it with other developers and telecommunications carriers. Facebook’s mission is to open the way for the industry to advance faster.
Image Source: Opus Fidelis