Following the ambitious Project Loon to distribute internet from the sky, Facebook has designed a special solar powered unmanned drone that is expected to beam internet connectivity from the sky to remote locations.
Named ‘Aquila’, the solar powered drone was built in 14 months and has 42-meter wingspan of a Boeing 737 but weighs only 880 pounds (400kg) and can stay aloft for 90 days at a time, hovering between 60,000 feet (night) and 90,000 feet (day) to avoid weather interruptions. The drone will circle a two mile radius in order to beam internet access down to remote and isolated areas.
Explaining the motivation behind this project, Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering said, “Our goal is to accelerate the development of a new set of technologies that can drastically change the economics of deploying Internet infrastructure. 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.”
Zuckerberg also posted a video of the drone on his Facebook page saying, “I’m excited to announce we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft, Aquila, as part of our Internet.org effort.
Aquila is a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity from the sky…This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies…Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality.”
The latest offering from Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is already complete for flight testing later this year. Without setting a definite timeline, the company said, “We still have a long way to go in this work, but we are excited by our early progress. We plan to engage with the broader community and share what we’ve learned, so we can all move faster in the development of these technologies.”