Facebook’s giant internet drone is ready for testing

Aquila-1

Facebook is getting ready to start testing its Aquila internet drone, which uses laser technology to deliver internet to remote areas from the sky.

Aquila is a high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft that’s designed to circle a remote region for up to 90 days autonomously, helping deliver internet to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. It’s wingspan is as big as a Boeing 737, but weight a hundreds of times less.

Though smaller scale version had been flown before, this is the first time a full-size model has been ready for testing.

When finalized, it will send the data via lasers, and Facebook’s also announcing a significant breakthrough in that technology as well: they can now send tens of gigabits per second to a target as small as a dime from over 10 miles away. For reference, the new technology is about 10 times faster than previous records.

It’s been a long time coming. Way back in March of 2014, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the drone connectivity project, and the company described its laser technology earlier this month.

According to Facebook, about 10 percent of people live in locations with no internet infrastructure. The company it doesn’t intend to create its own internet network, but instead hopes its research labs will foster the technological advancements needed for other operators to employ internet in remote regions.

For a closer look at technology going into the project, Facebook’s prepared a video you can watch here.

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