Facebook announced earlier this year that they would soon be offering internet connectivity to over 5 billion people who do not currently have access. The global giant plans on achieving this astonishing feat through the use of a solar drone which is scheduled to be tested within the coming summer.
Facebook’s solar drone is almost the size of a commercial plane and has been created to beam signals to various communities that are outside of the reach cellular networks. It is reported the drone is capable of staying airborne for months at a time, and even years if need be.
Facebook drone to stay airborne for months on end
Partnering with internet.org, Facebook has been working hard on this project since 2013. Various reasons why such a feat has not already been tackled include;
1) the fact that the communities in question are geographically difficult to reach with modern internet connectivity range
2) significant costs associated with data access and hardware
3) expensive and restricted power supplies depending on the region
4) the content available will not always be available in the native language
In order to counter such obstacles, the tech giant has partnered with Nokia and Samsung to work out solutions and overcome the above concerns.
Facebook teams up wtih Nokia and Samsung in order to overcome obstacles
That being said, the Aquila mission is a already a big step ahead of previous attempts due to the advent of the giant internet-bearing solar drone. However, the fact that the large aircraft will be unmanned has raised another set of hurdles.
To put the minds of stakeholders at ease, 2014 testing of smaller versions of the aircraft yielded positive results. This, coupled with better solar and battery technologies that have recently become available, has allowed Facebook to begin the testing of the Boeing 747 size drone.
Reports of up to 1,000 solar drones to be included in Aquila project
The Facebook solar drone has been constructed to be able to move at 60,000 – 90,000 feet in the air while beaming high speed of internet connectivity to even the most far reaching places on earth. Early approximations indicate that the drone may hover for almost 3 months in the air, but may eventually stay for longer periods of time. It has been reported that Facebook has plans to have around 1, 000 solar drones as part of the Aquila mission.
Even though the scope of the Aquila mission sounds incredible, it must be remembered that the project is still in the initial testing phase and that anything could happen. As stated by Facebook Vice President of Engineering Jay Parikh; “depending on how this test flight goes, we’ll see what happens… This is a big plane, this is a big project and it’s never been done before.”
Photo courtesy of pshab on Flickr