As the most pervasive and used social media platform, Facebook relies on billions of people around the world having access to the Internet in order to log on, post statuses, poke things and whatever else fits their fancy. However, Internet is still extremely hard to come by in many parts of the world. So, in efforts to right this wrong so that more people can place their face in Zuckerberg’s digital book, Facebook is taking to the skies with a giant drone to essentially beam Internet into remote areas of the world.
Named Aquila, Facebook’s Internet–beaming drone is made of carbon fiber and possesses a wingspan comparable to a 737 plane. Aquila is currently being tested to fulfill its purpose, going through flight simulations where its onboard computer system allows it to pilot and guide itself. With a successful maiden voyage under its belt, Aquila is one flight closer to delivering Internet to the unconnected parts of the world, but still has a ways to go. Aquila still needs to be outfitted with Internet antennas, solar panels and high-altitude batteries to successfully perform its mission – the drone was built to fly in the stratosphere above weather in order to beam signals back down to Earth, powered by solar panels that let it stay airborne for months at a time.
Facebook estimates that 1.6 billion people live in areas without access to mobile broadband, which is a huge market for the social media titan to tap into. Aquila could help Facebook break into those areas, literally. With their sights set on simply expanding access to the Internet, Facebook plans to give away the blueprints to the finalized version of Aquila and their other Internet devices so that local governments and service providers have advanced technology at their disposal to offer Internet signals and service to remote areas. Aquila’s “air-delivery” of Internet is seen as a cheaper option than running landlines across vast stretches of land. While work still remains, the sky’s the limit for Aquila.