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Facebook announces plans to bring the world online using aircraft drones and satellites

Both solar-powered aircraft drone and low-Earth orbit satellites will be used to beam internet access down to people in remote regions in the world.

Mark Zuckerberg talking about Internet.org at the Mobile World Congress in February.
Mark Zuckerberg talking about Internet.org at the Mobile World Congress in February.
Image: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

AT THE BEGINNING of the month, there were rumours that Facebook’s big plan was to use aircraft drones to bring internet access to remote parts of the world

Now the project has been made official as Facebook confirmed that engineers are working on developing a fleet of solar-powered drones that can beam internet access down to people in remote regions of the world.

The organisation behind it, Internet.org, will use these drones for suburban areas in limited geographical regions, while for lower density regions, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites will be deployed.

The idea is that different locations require different solutions if they are to get internet access.

To deal with the challenges faced, Facebook bought Ascenta, a UK-based company with expertise in designing and building high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft, for 20 million (€14.5 million). Orignally, Facebook was linked with Titan Aerospace,

Other organisations involved with the project includes NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ames Research Center and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

These groups come together to form the Connectivity Lab team, which will develop new platforms for connectivity on the ground, air and orbit.

As for improving data communication from the air, the orgiansation is looking at Free-space optical communication (FSO), a method that uses light to transmit data through space using invisible, infrared laser beams. If the ides is successful, it would boost the internet speeds offered by both drones and satellites.

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(Video: Internet.org/YouTube)

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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