According to Statista, Facebook had 1.49 billion active users as of the second quarter of 2015. With the company commanding over 20 percent of the world’s population, people have to wonder how a tech company can expect to grow when 60 percent of its prospective customers are missing a vital component to the service it offers: the internet. Well, Facebook has the answer, and it relies on flying a solar-powered Facebook drone over areas of the world that don’t have regular access to the web.
Facebook Throws in Its Bid to Power Free Wi-Fi Worldwide
The Boeing 737 is a passenger plane that boasts a respectable wingspan just under 120 ft. Facebook’s solar powered drone, sitting somewhere in the UK, that has a wingspan to match. Facebook calls this goliath Aquila, which is a reference to the eagle that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts in Greek mythology.
However, offering a sort of global blanket of Wi-Fi isn’t an idea that is unheard of. At the beginning of the year, SpaceX raised $1 billion in new funding from partners like Google and Fidelity in an effort to launch satellites into space to help broaden internet connectivity.
Additionally, Google also has a project called Project Loon that has a similar goal of floating balloons into the stratosphere. The plan is to partner with telecom companies to spread LTE around the world.
According to Facebook, Four Billion People Lack Internet Access
Building a Facebook drone with the same wingspan of a Boeing 737 sounds expensive, and giving out free internet access seems like a crazy idea, but Facebook says there are still four billion people in the world who lack regular access to the internet. Which for them means there are four billion potential customers to win over. For Facebook, this is an investment that they hope will bring in a large return.
How it All Works
Yael Maguire, Aquila’s project lead, stated that their goal is to have Aquila stay in the air for 90 days at an altitude between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. “We think this is a very ambitious goal, given that the world record, as far as we can tell, is about two weeks,” said Maguire.
Another group of Facebook engineers has been working on developing new laser networking technologies that will enable Aquila to send the drone’s internet signal back to Earth. The laser is designed to deliver data at speeds up to 10s of Gbits per second.
Development on Aquila has already been completed and Facebook is currently getting ready to launch test flights of the Facebook drone soon.