Facebook has been working on bringing Internet to the most remote parts of the world since 2013 through its Internet.org initiative, and the company often has talked about using drones and lasers to do so. On Thursday, Facebook finally unveiled the first of these working drones in a video posted on the social network.
The drone, formally called the Aquila, features a wingspan that is longer than a Boeing 737 airplane yet weighs less than a car. The solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle is designed to fly for up to three months at a time at altitudes far above those of conventional aircrafts.
"Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the drone aircraft.
Facebook's drones are designed to deliver Internet to unconnected parts of the world via lasers. The drones receive the connection from an Internet gateway then redistribute that connection amongst themselves before beaming the connection to homes below. To do this, Facebook has developed its own laser technology that is capable of transmitting data at 10 gigabits per second. That's 10 times faster than previous technologies, according to the tech giant.
"This effort is important because 10 percent of the world’s population lives in areas without existing Internet infrastructure," Zuckerberg said. "To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies."
Facebook is not alone in its efforts to bring Internet to the 4 billion unconnected humans on Earth. Google has been trying to do the same with its own Project Loon initiative, which is designed to connect people using giant balloons, and just this week it was announced that Google has teamed up with the country of Sri Lanka to deliver Internet to all of its inhabitants by way of Project Loon.