Facebook's aerospace team in the UK has completed construction of its first full-scale aircraft, called the Aquila, as part of its Internet.org effort. Aquila is a solar-powered unmanned plane designed to beam down Internet connectivity from the sky.
The V-shaped, carbon fiber-layered prototype weighs between 880 lbs. and 1,000 lbs, has a wingspan greater than a commercial aircraft and is designed to fly above 60,000ft for up to three months at a time.
The idea is to use the high-altitude drones to provide internet connectivity to those currently lacking it. However, as with its Internet.org project, Facebook will not be dealing with customers directly, instead partnering with local ISPs to offer the services. Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice-president of engineering, said: “Our mission is to connect everybody in the world. This is going to be a great opportunity for us to motivate the industry to move faster on this technology.”
"This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure," writes Zuckerberg. Testing will begin in the US, later this year.
Other tech companies have launched similar initiatives. Google is experimenting with high-altitude balloons as well as drones and satellites. Microsoft has funded a project that will transmit Internet signals over unused television airwaves.
... Devashree Goenka