How Facebook Will Use Solar-Powered Drones To Beam The Internet To Rural Communities

Earlier this year Facebook tested its solar-powered internet-delivering drone called Aquila, which has a bigger wingspan than a Boeing 737. The plan, unveiled back in 2015, aims to deliver the internet to remote places which don't have the online access many of us take for granted.

But while this year it took its first flight, it's still got some way to go yet before it's flying around beaming the internet to people—most notably they have to figure out how exactly to connect the drone to the internet.

WIRED have recently released a short doc (above) about how Facebook are getting on, catching up with Facebook's engineer's in Southern California. They're currently using conventional planes to test out the technology that will eventually be used in Aquila.

The airborne communications technology—which is the first of its kind—they're working on can deliver 20 gigabytes per second to the ground, which WIRED note is 400 times faster than home internet speeds. They're using the millimeter wave frequency—which has the necessary bandwidth—to wirelessly send the data, and there needs be such a huge amount because it'll be getting sent to various communities and many addresses on the ground.

But it wont just benefit rural communities across the globe, because once they've perfected the tech—which they admit might be many years away—Facebook are going to make it open source. They're also hoping to use the drones to aide in disaster situations. Say a hurricane wipes out a city or whole area of a country. You could get a solar-powered drone into the air in hours and that could fly over the affected region giving them internet access so people could let friends and family know they're OK—and also help coordinate rescue efforts.

"Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet," Mark Zuckerberg wrote earlier this year about the project. "Communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time—something that's never been done before."

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