Zuckerberg Reveals Solar-Powered Facebook Drones That Will Beam Internet Access Across the Globe from the Sky

8:13 AM EDT 3/27/2015 by Kara Michelle, Celebeat Reporter

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Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer during the second day of the F8 developer conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco, showed off a preview of its Internet service-providing drone, codenamed Aquila.

Though the drones will have a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767, they will each weigh less than a car. They will also be tougher and be able to fly for longer periods of time than balloons, while also being able to have their location precisely controlled. Capable of broadcasting a powerful signal that covers a city-sized area of territory with a medium population density, the drones are set to fly at an altitude of 65,000ft where winds are at their lowest. They are relatively cheap to make and maintain and will be most effective for suburban areas that do not have the cables or infrastructure to carry internet or telephone signals.

"As part of our effort to connect the world, we've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. "Today, I'm excited to share that we've successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK. The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time. Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure."

Facebook is partnered with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and other tech firms to develop the Internet-providing service planes in an initiative called "Internet.org." The members of the initiative said in a report that connecting the world is "one of the fundamental challenges of our time" and using drones is one of a variety of technologies that they will employ towards that end. "When people have access to the internet, they can not only connect with their friends, family and communities, but they can also gain access to the tools and information to help find jobs, start businesses, access healthcare, education and financial services and have a greater say in their societies. They get to participate in the knowledge economy," it says in the report.

Facebook says that a broader rollout of the drones over the next several years will follow from this summer's test flights. 

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