Facebook’s solar-powered drone to beam internet from the sky

Washington, July 31 (IANS) Facebook has completed the production of its first full-scale solar-powered internet drone that will deliver wireless internet with lasers from the sky in parts of the developing world where internet availability is still a dream.

Mark Zuckerberg has announced the completion of Aquila, Facebook’s first unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity from the sky, as part of his project with Internet.org.

“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,” Zuckerberg said in a statement posted on his Facebook blog on Thursday.

“We have also made a breakthrough in laser communications technology. We have successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second,” he continued.

“That is 10 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,” Zuckerberg said.

Aquila’s wings are made of a type of material called carbon fibre.

“When the carbon fibre material undergoes a kind of heating process known as curing, it can become “stronger than steel for the same mass of material,” Yael Maguire, Facebook Connectivity Lab director, wrote in a blog post.

The drone has been developed by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab which is part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative to bring the internet to places where there is a lack of connectivity.

This effort is important “because 10 percent of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies,” Zuckerberg informed.

In an accompanying video, Facebook engineers said that the drone will fly from 60,000 to 90,000 feet above the Earth and stay in the sky three months at a time.

“Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time,” Zuckerberg wrote.

This is how it will work.

Facebook will have lasers on the ground that can locate the dome-shaped optical head, located on the bottom of the plane, in the air ? basically shooting a laser at a dime-sized target that is more than 10 miles away, tech portal The Verge reported.

The plane will first hone in on the general location of the laser on the ground, proceeding to target it further and lock onto the location so that it can start beaming down the internet.
Because the plane requires a connection with the lasers on the ground though, you might experience a slower connection when it’s raining or cloudy.

“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,” Zuckerberg further posted.

“Aquila” is also a constellation, named after the bird that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts to battle in Greco-Roman mythology.

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