Facebook Inc is planning to conduct more tests of its solar-powered drone. According to a report in Digital Trends, the social networking giant is in talks with multiple countries to test Aquila, a solar-powered airplane designed to bring internet to around 4 billion people or 60% of the global population. Martin Gomez, the company’s head of aeronautical platforms, said that a number of interested countries are eager to host test flights. However, he did not disclose names of any interested country.
Facebook Internet Drone
The social networking company wants to bring affordable broadband Internet connectivity in the developing countries. There are more than 1.5 billion people in remote locations with no access to mobile broadband networks. They live in areas where implementing existing network technologies is challenging and costly.
Keeping that in mind, the company setup the Connectivity Lab, which is testing new technologies — including aircraft, satellites, and wireless communications systems — to provide internet in remote locations around the world.
Facebook believes that “internet access can offer life-changing opportunities and experiences to all of us.”
In July, Facebook successfully tested its internet-serving drone. Aquila, the internet-serving drone, completed the first full-scale test flight without any problem. The internet drone can circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems.
The drone has the ability to fly for up to three months at a time. It has the wingspan of an airliner, but consumes only 5,000 watts at a cruising speed. This means that the aircraft’s energy consumption is equal to the power consumed by three hair dryers or a high-end microwave.
“We’re encouraged by this first successful flight, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. In fact, to reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which currently stands at two weeks. This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve. It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they’ll be most effective,” the social networking company said in a blog post.
Countries Keen To Host Internet Drone Trials
On Monday, Gomez told the Royal Aeronautical Society that many countries showed interest in Facebook’s drone trials. Some of them “really clamoring” to host this first demo, he said. Those countries “have huge regions where there is zero or very poor internet connectivity,” Gomez said.
Facebook is expected to start the trial process in 2018. As part of its plans, the company will build ground control stations atop large airfields and hangars in the host countries. These locations will be used to house both the drones and their operators, The Register reported.
Gomez said that Facebook Inc wants to have “thousands of aircraft flying around the world.”
Early September, a Facebook satellite – a key component of the company’s project to provide internet to more than one billion people in remote locations – was destroyed after a SpaceX rocket exploded at a launch site in Cape Canaveral.