Facebook unveils drone for beaming internet access from the sky

Aquila: Facebook’s plan to deliver internet to the masses (Image: Facebook via AP)

Facebook is taking to the skies. Last week, the tech giant unveiled Aquila, the drone it hopes will deliver internet to the masses.

The drone has been in development for over a year as part of Internet.org, Facebook’s initiative to help underdeveloped countries get online.

A video published on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page describes Aquila as having a wingspan of 40 metres, about the same as a Boeing 737. It is made out of lightweight composite materials, including carbon fibre, and is solar-powered.

In the company’s long-term vision for the project, hundreds of drones will circle a large area at an altitude of 60,000 feet, remaining aloft for three months at a time. Lasers will beam information at tens of gigabytes per second between the drones and systems on the ground.

According to US consulting firm McKinsey and Company, more than 4 billion people around the world still don’t have access to the internet.

Viable alternative

Facebook thinks that drones are a viable alternative to traditional means of delivering internet – such as cell towers and fibre-optic cables – since many areas currently without internet are remote and lack the necessary infrastructure.

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