Facebook, solar energy and drones join to connect billions to the Internet

facebook drone

Solar Power – delivering the internet to millions. Image: Facebook

What do Facebook, solar energy and drones have in common? Not a great deal you may think; after all drones have a sinister reputation in our day and age. For they are usually thought of as accessories to destroy, maim or kill, the latest in warrior technology designed to conquer and “take out” perceived or real enemies.

Indeed it’s difficult to think of a drone being used for a positive purpose such as to help people connect, interact and research. However Facebook is out to prove us wrong on this point with its Aquila drone and it is solar energy that will power this drone connectivity revolution.

Commissioned by the social media giant, the carbon fibre constructed drone has a goal to connect those 4 billion people in the world currently without Internet access by beaming wi-fi from beyond the clouds.

“Our mission is to connect everybody in the world,” said Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering. “This is going to be a great opportunity for us to motivate the industry to move faster on this technology.”

The scope of the “Internet in the Sky” mission is vast and one in which the boffins at Facebook have invested a great deal of time and money.

“Facebook has a very, very big and bold mission, which is to make the world more open and connected,” said Yael Maguire, Connectivity Lab director of engineering. Its goals are “primarily focused on regions where there just isn’t Internet connectivity, and that’s why we’re really invested in solar-powered aircraft and lasers as a mechanism to do that.”

However where does solar energy fit into this program?

The drone — named Aquila after the eagle of Greek mythology — will use solar panels to capture the sun’s energy to help it circle the stratosphere. It will then use laser signals to beam the Internet to base stations in places such as rural India where Internet coverage is sparse. It is this solar energy that will enable it to circle the Earth for up to 90 days before being required to land say Facebook.

This will be quite an achievement for the Aquila has the same wingspan as a Boeing 737 jet and weighs the same as a small car.

On the surface you’d think there was little to connect social media giant Facebook, solar energy and drones. However by bringing the three together the social media phenomenon is set to bring Internet coverage to those areas that currently do not receive Internet coverage, delivering Internet connectivity to places that have probably never heard of apps, tweets, Buzzfeed, trolling SolarQuotes.com.au and the like. Onwards and upwards with solar energy!

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