Facebook’s Aquila Drone Will Beam Down Internet Access With Lasers

27 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook’s drone prototype has wingspan greater than a Boeing 737.

As the second day of its F8 conference began here at Fort Mason in San Francisco, Facebook announced the first hardware it plans to use to beam the Internet down to billions of people around the world.Zuckerberg posted a Facebook update Thursday saying that Facebook’s drones, which would fly over remote communities and beam down Internet signals, have taken test flights in the United Kingdom: The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car.

Facebook revealed new details on Thursday about its plan to bring web connectivity to the 4 billion people worldwide without Internet — and it’s banking big on drones.’s internet-spreading drone has successfully completed its first test flight, paving the way to connecting the 3bn people currently without connectivity.At its F8 developers conference today, Facebook offered a first look at a solar-powered drone capable of beaming internet access to remote areas around the globe. During today’s keynote, Facebook also announced that it open sourced its development tool React Native, and showed off new artificial intelligence systems that can identify and understand the meaning of video and text content.

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. Just staying in the air for that long is a challenge, but Facebook’s also going to be pushing Internet access down to people 60,000-90,000 feet below using lasers, as well as maintaining communications between drones to maintain coverage across wider regions.

Aquila is the first complete concept we’ve seen come out of Facebook’s acqui-hires of engineers from UK-based Ascenta, unveiled nearly a year ago today. While both companies have framed their respective projects as lofty, big-thinking goals, they would also materially benefit from having more Internet-connected humans they could turn into users. The move is a part of a greater effort to support the Facebook-led initiative Internet.org, which is already bringing free Internet data to four African countries, Colombia and India. The company also announced during the keynote that the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift will officially launch “this year.” The move could catapult virtual reality gaming into the mainstream. Thanks to solar panels running across the upper surface of the wings, the drone can stay aloft for up to three months, cruising at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, “will one day help connect people living in the world’s most remote communities” Facebook said today at F8 2015, its annual developer event. Facebook’s expertise came in part from its purchase of Ascenta, a UK-based startup which was responsible for the longest-running solar powered UAV flight. Drones alone aren’t Zuckerberg’s web strategy, though, and the project is also looking at low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites to help fill in the lingering gaps.

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