Facebook’s efforts to spread Internet connectivity to nearly every person on the globe will get off the ground this summer. A new report from The Wall Street Journal indicates that Facebook’s prototype drone, Aquila, will be much larger than the one-tenth-scale drone that the company tested last year.
The full-size model will have the wingspan of a Boeing 737 (117 feet), but will only weigh as much as a small car (less than 3,000 pounds). The drones are capable of cruising at an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet, and can stay aloft for months at a time thanks to solar panels embedded in the massive wings and onboard lithium-ion batteries.
During Facebook’s F8 Conference last week, Jay Parikh, Facebook’s VP of Engineering, said that each drone will be capable of “[beaming] down backbone Internet access” to people across the globe who otherwise wouldn’t have easy access to Internet connectivity. According to Facebook’s estimates, about 4.4 billion people on the planet don’t have access to the Internet.
“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,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on March 26th.
As to where that Internet access will come from, Facebook will partner with existing mobile carriers rather than develop its own service. “I think it would take a lot longer if we were going to do it all by ourselves,” adds Parikh. “It would take a lot of money and I don’t think it’s sustainable long-term.”
Internet.org currently offers free, basic Internet service to people living in countries like Colombia, India, Ghana, Kenya, Indonesia, and Tanzania. With Facebook’s contribution, this will reach out worldwide.
(Image Source: iCLIPART)