Facebook will test Internet beaming drones

Published - September 29, 2014 12:37 am IST - Washington:

Facebook plans to start testing its Internet-carrying solar-powered drones in 2015, with the ultimate aim of getting two-thirds of the global population online.

Mark Zuckerberg had unveiled Facebook’s Connectivity Lab and its partnership with the Internet.org project in March this year.

The initiative seeks to use solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles to beam internet down to the two thirds of the global population who are not yet connected, according to Gizmag . Speaking at the Social Good Summit in New York last week, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, Yael Maguire, detailed the company’s vision of internet-carrying drones, with plans to begin testing in 2015 in a US location which is yet to be determined.

“In order for us to fly these planes — unmanned planes that have to fly for months, or perhaps years at a time — we actually have to fly above the weather, above all airspace,” Mr. Maguire told Mashable. “That’s between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Routinely, planes don’t fly there, and certainly not drones,” he said.

The size of the planes will be roughly the size of a commercial aircraft.

One of the plane models the lab is working on is the length of “about six or seven Priuses, but is the weight of four of the tires of a Prius,” Mr. Maguire said.

A team at the Facebook Connectivity Lab is specifically working on policy, advising the technology and development teams on regulations that are in place.

Right now, there’s a ‘one pilot per plane’ rule, but Mr. Maguire said they need a regulatory environment that’s open to one pilot managing up to 100 of these solar-powered planes.

“We can’t have one person per plane if we want to figure out how to connect the world,” he said.

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