The brainchild of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, Aquila will use a laser communication system to transmit Internet signals to stations located on the ground to provide access to remote areas. Although Facebook is designing the drones and the network as well as solving technical problems, it says it will share its knowledge with partners and hopes to enlist telecommunications companies, aircraft manufacturers and perhaps governments in the construction and operation of the system.
To achieve its objective of providing Internet access to 4 billion people, Facebook is taking to the skies.
A test conducted in Britain back in March showed the drone could increase the speed and access to the Internet by about 10 percent of the population that presently has no Internet connections and who are not near cell towers or landlines.
Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice-president of engineering, said: “Our mission is to connect everybody in the world”.
Like a watch, “there are a lot of moving parts here that need to move in concert to make the network work”, Yael Maguire, director of engineering at Facebook’s connectivity lab, said at the news conference.
It will climb to its maximum height during the day, before gliding slowly down to its lowest limit at night, to save power when its solar panels are not receiving charge.
Featuring a carbon fiber frame, the Aquila drone weighs nearly a hundred times less than an actual Boeing 737 and will be tested in the US later this year. Code-named as the Aquila drone, the airliner has been built to provide Internet connectivity in remote areas of the world. Lacking wheels, or even the ability to climb from ground level to its cruising altitude without aid, it will be launched with the help of helium balloons, which will rise it to its preferred height. Helium balloons will be attached to the plane and float it up into the air.
Because the planes must constantly move to stay aloft, they will circle a three-km (two-mile) radius, Parikh said. This campaigned is also geared toward the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have consistent Internet connectivity.
However, these programmes have been heavily criticized by activists including world wide web inventor Tim Bernard Lee, as according to them users get a very limited version of Internet, with access restricted to sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, weather and job listings along with govt. related info.
Zuckerberg said at the time that Internet.org would operate as a free platform “so anyone can build free basic services”, but that the full Internet would not be included.
“Our goal is to accelerate the development of a new set of technologies that can drastically change the economics of deploying internet infrastructure”, Mr Parikh said.