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Facebook building helicopter drone to bring Wi-Fi to disaster zones

Facebook has revealed it is developing an unmanned helicopter drone it hopes to fly into disaster zones to restore connectivity when the online infrastructure has been damaged.

The VW Beetle-sized Tether-tenna chopper will dangle fiber and power cables hundreds of feet to the ground in the hope of providing temporary Wi-Fi access during the crisis

This means the drone, revealed on stage at the F8 conference (via Recode), will be able to eventually remain airborne for weeks and months at a time.

Related: Facebook F8: day one highlights

“When completed,” the company wrote on its Code blog, “this technology will be able to be deployed immediately and operate for months at a time to bring back connectivity in case of an emergency — ensuring the local community can stay connected while the in-ground connectivity is under repair.”

Facebook says it in the early days of development and ‘lots of work’ is needed to ensure it’ll be able to run autonomously for months at a time.

During testing, Facebook has been able to keep it in the air for 24 hours, but the company is yet to figure out how to protect it from high winds and lightning, which could be among the things be causing the crisis in the first place.

The development combines two areas in which Facebook has been exceptionally active during recent years.

The Safety Check feature allows people to tell friends and family they’re safe during a crisis, while the firm has long been working on drone technology to provide internet access in remote areas.

After all, it’s hard to check-in as ‘safe’ with no connectivity.

Have you ever had to use Facebook’s Safety Check feature? How useful would these drones be? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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