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Facebook’s internet drones will be jet-sized and stay airborne for years

Facebook has revealed a few more details surrounding its pie-in-the-sky plans to beam internet access to the developing world using drone planes, claiming the first of which could be in the skies as soon as next year.

One of the project’s leaders, Facebook Connectivity Lab’s Yael Maguire, revealed some pretty interesting stuff while speaking to Mashable at the site’s Social Good Summit.

According to Maguire, the solar-powered Unmanned Aerial vehicles will fly well above commercial airspace and perhaps stay up in the air for years at a time.

Startlingly, he also said the drones should really be considered planes as they will be “roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747” and around the length of “six or seven Toyota Priuses.” Despite their impressive size, the drones will only weight of four car tires.

Maguire said: “In order for us to fly these planes – unmanned planes that have to fly for months, or perhaps years at a time – we actually have to fly above the weather, above all airspace.”

The team at the Connectivity Lab team has picked out 21 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa for the project and is prioritising the target areas on the basis of population size versus available connectivity.

Facebook aims to begin testing the planes in the United States as soon as 2015, joining Google’s like-minded, balloon-centric initiative Project Loon a run for its money.

Maguire added: “We have to push the edge of battery technology, of solar technology, of composite technology. There are a whole bunch of challenges that our team is super excited to work on.”

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