Internet giant, Facebook is all set to test its Aquila aircraft, the solar-powered internet drone later this year, company announced at the Mobile World Congress 2016, Barcelona.
The idea is to deploy a network of these solar-powered internet drones above the regions of little or no internet at a high altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet, so that the people below will receive WiFi or LTE signals from the drones. These network of drones will connect with each other using laser communications to spread internet connectivity as far away from base stations on the ground as possible.
Aquila aircraft with a wingspan of roughly the size of a Boeing 737 and a third of the weight of a typical car is designed to stay aloft for three months. Its wings are covered with solar panels that will provide the energy for the aircrafts to stay aloft.
Facebook unveiled the plan in June 2015 and has been working on creating the aircraft and laser communications system. “The focus is to test the platform out. We are not going to be an operator, we want to bring the technology to operators to deploy in areas where it makes sense,” explained Jay Parikh, global head of engineering and infrastructure, Facebook.
Facebook looks forward to work with a collaboration of the operators to lower the deployment cost. The company will work with the operators and later hand it over to the carriers to use and run.
It is important for Facebook to be involved in connecting the next billion to increase its reach in the rural segment. It is for this reason that the company has been making an effort to be involved in connecting the unconnected.