Facebook Announces Development of Internet Drone

At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference in March of 2015, the company announced plans to develop a large unmanned aerial vehicle to provide internet connectivity in remote locales. The new drone has already completed its first test flight in the United Kingdom. Some preliminary specifications of the aircraft include: a wingspan the size of a Boeing 737 (approximately 29 meters), a solar-powered energy system, a projected 60,000 feet altitude ceiling, and a loitering time of many months. The company anticipates that the drone will only have a weight of approximately three to four thousand pounds, or the weight of an average car. Facebook’s internet drone project has been dubbed project Aquila, named after the eagle in Greek mythology tasked with carrying Zeus’s thunderbolts.

Under the company’s Connectivity Lab division, the project is currently still in the planning stage but test flights are roughly estimated for this summer. Last year, Facebook acquired Ascenta, a manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles, to design and develop drones for this project. Facebook states that a fleet of 1,000 units would be able to provide internet coverage across the entire globe. A competing project with similar goals is Project Loon by Google, which seeks to develop global internet connectivity via high altitude hot air balloons. Project Aquila is part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, established in 2013, with the aim of offering global internet access.

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