Facebook’s plans to deliver internet access to under-served areas of the world through airborne drones is no ‘pie in the sky scheme,’ the firm underlined at its F8 conference on Tuesday.
During the developer event (via NYT), Facebook showcased the latest design for its Aquila unmanned aerial vehicle which it hopes to use to connect the estimated 5 billion people on earth without reliable web access.
The new V-shaped design has the 156-feet wingspan, rivaling that of a Boeing 767 passenger jet, while weighing only as much as a small car.
The company plans to launch over 1,000 of these solar-powered drones, which will soar at altitudes between 60,000 to 90,000, for up to three months at a time, sending high-speed connectivity to the ground. Test flights of the new drones are scheduled to begin as soon as this summer
The company is working with the UK drone-maker Ascenta, which it acquired last year, while it also has its own team working from the Facebook Connectivity Lab.
“We want to serve every person in the world,” said Yael Maguire, head of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab.
“Can we reach a point where everyone on the planet gets the same message at once? I’m looking forward to that day.”
The initiative is part of Facebook’s Internet.org drive, which the company says has helped connect 3 million new people in the Philippines and Paraguay over the course of the last year.
In a post on his own Facebook page, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft. “