Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s one of Facebook’s Internet drones!
There are around 2.2 billion people in the world without an Internet connection, and although some of you would love to live there away from the buzz of smartphones, companies like Facebook and Google are working hard to ensure wherever you are, you’ll be connected. This summer Facebook hope to begin testing the next step in their attempts at worldwide Internet coverage by testing some of their drones which are as large as commercial 747 airplanes.
Speaking with The Wall Street Journal Facebook’s vice president of engineering, Jay Parikh, said that the company is planning “a real test flight” of its solar-powered Internet drone this Summer. That’s right, this Summer Facebook will be running tests on an unmanned drone the size of a standard commercial passenger jet. These tests will be the first time the full-sized Internet drone, named Aquila, will take to the skies. Facebook has already ran tests on drones around a tenth of the size earlier this month.
These new unmanned drones hope to supply Internet to the billions currently without a stable Internet connection. Facebook say that the drone weighs as much as four car tires and that its lightweight build and the technology on board should help the craft stay aloft for weeks, months, or even years at a time.
You may be familiar with Google’s efforts to get Internet across the world. They currently have a similar plan in place but instead of giant crafts, they’re relying more on weather balloon-like technology with a small payload underneath with the Internet tech inside.
Parikh told The Wall Street Journal that the technology used on the drones has only just been developed saying that the hardware available a year ago, when the project was first announced, “wasn’t good enough for what we were truing to do with this plane.” Unfortunately, despite tests being carried out by both Facebook and Google, regulations which are lagging behind evolving technologies, are yet to allow such things to become a reality thanks to out dated safety concerns and other regulations.
When asked whether Facebook would be creating their own unique network with the fleet of drones, or whether they’d be relying on carriers to allow them to piggyback off of their signals, Parikh said it’d go against he company’s core mission. “I think it would take a lot longer if we were going to do it all by ourselves,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “It would take a lot of money and I don’t think it’s sustainable long-term.”