Facebook Inc.’s new solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle, which is complete and ready for testing, aims to provide Internet connectivity in remote locations across the world using laser and radio frequency technology.
The vehicle can fly above air traffic for up to three months, said the company on 30 July.
The aircraft, made of carbon-fibre, has a wingspan greater than a commercial aircraft, but weighs less than a car. It will be able to circle a remote region for up to 90 days, beaming connectivity down to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet.
The project comes under Facebook’s flagship initiative Internet.org, which was launched in July last year, and has been experimenting with different technologies, including aircraft, satellites and terrestrial solutions to “change the economics of deploying internet infrastructure”.
Jay Parikh, VP of Global Engineering and Infrastructure, said, “We are really focused on regions which do not have any Internet connectivity. That’s why we invested on solar power aircraft and laser solution mechanism,” said Yael Maguire, director of engineering, Connectivity Lab, in a video blog post. “We have to challenge every assumption. We challenged the means by which Internet is delivered.”
Connectivity Lab, which was set up in March 2014, comprises a team that is working on new aerospace and communication technologies to improve and extend Internet access under Internet.org.
The new solution is targeted at the 10% of the world’s population that lives in remote locations with no Internet infrastructure, where it is not cost-effective to deploy traditional digital infrastructure like fiber-optic cable, microwave repeaters and cell towers.