Facebook’s solar –powered unmanned aerial vehicle has a wingspan greater than a commercial aircraft but weighs less than a car. A look inside Facebook’s Connectivity Lab reveals the team is working hard on an important project to bring connectivity to the billions of people in the world who are not connected.
The Facebook Plane –Aquila is a solar-powered, carbon fiber drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737, which will fly 90 days without touching the ground. Facebook says the prototype is now ready for flight testing. Aquila will beam wireless Internet to those pesky 10 % of the world population that live so remotely they can’t access even mobile 3G service. Aquila is the hardware arm of Internet.org, Facebook’s NGO for a wholly connected planet – with more Facebook users. The company is also developing special lasers for the drones to communicate among them and to the ground.
Facebook’s objective is not to operate the drones itself but to put them in the hands of telecom operators. It has no interest in being an ISP; what it wants is more people to sell advertising to. (That’s not to say people at Facebook don’t truly believe in “making the world more open and connected.”) Like Tesla accelerating the development of batteries to be able to sell electric cars and Amazon building a plan for airspace regulation just to deliver packages, Facebook is one of those companies building the roads so it can drive. Governments can only catch up.