A while ago, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced conceptual plans to launch a fleet of solar-powered drones above rural areas unconnected to the internet. Using lasers, the drones would then provide service to these areas. It turns out Facebook is already testing these internet drones in the UK thanks to relaxed regulations.
These internet drones were developed by solar-powered drone designer Ascenta, a company purchased by Facebook in March 2015. Named Aquila, the drone is designed to fly at 60,000 feet for several months at a time on solar power alone. At 29 meters, their wingspan exceeds that of a Boeing 737.
The plans were conceived as part of a larger strategy to connect developing countries to the internet, which would result in an enormous boost to business for companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook itself, all of which rely on the internet for revenue.
Why are internet drones being developed so fast?
The program, called Internet.org, is led by Facebook.
According to their website, “Initiative participants share tools, resources and best practices to explore solutions in three major opportunity areas: affordability, efficiency and business models.”
Participating companies include Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Samsung, Facebook, Nokia and Qualcomm.
They’re not the only ones investing in a connected world. Google and SpaceX have set forth their own initiatives using a fleet of tiny satellites.
Facebook is also anticipating the influence billions of new users will have on its popular social networking site. According to chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s artificial intelligence team is studying the problem of information overload.
One thing is for certain: plans to achieve a connected world are moving forward at a faster pace than anyone imagined. Billions of new internet users seem inevitable within the next decade–the consequences of which remain a mystery. Internet drones are just the beginning.
Check out an interview with Schroepfer here: