Facebook Reveals Aquila, the Drone That Will Provide Internet

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Facebook Reveals Aquila, the Drone That Will Provide Internet

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A few months after Facebook declared its plans to provide internet access to the remote areas around the world via drones, the social media giant has revealed its first solar powered drone, Aquila. Developed under Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, the drone is part of Mark Zuckerberg’s ambition to connect the world to the internet through “drones, satellites and lasers”.

The drone, which has a wingspan of a Boeing 737, can fly at an altitude of between 60,000ft (18 km) and 90,000ft (27 km), higher than any commercial airliner. The solar powered drone can fly without landing for a three months at a time. The drone will fly at the highest altitude during the day and at lowest at night to conserve power.

I'm excited to announce we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft, Aquila, as part of our effort. Aquila is a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity from the sky. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a car and can stay in the air for months at a time. We've also made a breakthrough in laser communications technology. We've successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second. That's ten times faster than any previous system, and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies. Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality. Here’s a video showing the building of Aquila.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, 30 July 2015

Mark Zuckerberg also announced that a new breakthrough in laser technology that would allow the company to transmit internet upto a 10 gigabit per second. The drone, combined with the laser technology, will deliver wireless internet over rural areas. The laser technology was mentioned by Zuckerberg a few weeks ago.

CX Deck

Aquila, the mother drone will receive the signal from ground and will then transmit the signal to the other drones in the sky through lasers. It is to be noted that even though Facebook will provide internet access through the drones, it won’t become an ISP. The company is looking for telecom carriers to partner with in providing affordable internet to remote areas.

Facebook is not the only company venturing into wireless internet. Google’s Project Loon aims to provide internet through balloons and Elon Musk is teaming up with Google to put internet beaming satellites in space.

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Tejan Mitra