Facebook just built a drone that will be able to beam broadband internet to areas across the globe that cannot currently access the internet.
Connectivity Lab, a Facebook initiative to develop new technology to provide internet accessibility for everyone, recently finalized their new drone called Aquila, according to CNN Money. The project was initiated in 2014 after Facebook acquired U.K.-based drone company Ascenta.
There are 4 billion people across the globe who do not currently have the necessary infrastructure to access internet. Aquila is a project that was designed to bring connectivity to these hard-to-reach places and will be able to do so within a 50-mile radius. Jay Parikh, VP of engineering at Facebook, said in a company post:
“When finished, our laser communications system can be used to connect our aircraft with each other and with the ground, making it possible to create a stratospheric network that can extend to even the remotest regions of the world.”
Aquila is a solar-powered drone that is set to fly for three months at a time. It was constructed in the image of a boomerang and built using light carbon fiber which, when cured, is two to three times stronger than steel. It weighs 880 pounds and reaches 140-feet in diameter — the same wingspan as a Boeing 737.
The drone’s laser technology will allow Facebook to deliver internet clocked at 10 times faster than the industry standard.
The plane is completely covered in solar cells and will cruise in circles 90,000 feet above ground during the day soaking up solar power before it drops down to 60,000 feet at night to conserve energy.
The plane does not require a runway, but it will require a helium balloon that will float the aircraft past the weather and commercial airspace.
While there are still no laws regarding sustained flight in the stratosphere, Facebook is working with policy advisors to establish safe and secure protocols for Aquila, which was designed to fly above commercial airspace and weather.
For now, flying restrictions require that one pilot be on the ground for each drone, but Facebook designed Aquila to fly without a dedicated pilot. Parikh said:
“Our intention is not to build networks and then operate them ourselves, but rather to quickly advance the state of these technologies to the point that they become viable solutions for operators and other partners to deploy.”
While Aquila still has yet to take flight, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab plans on being airborne within the next six months.