Facebook releases photos of internet-access drone

From the Verge:

Facebook's shallow V-shaped plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 737. But even fully loaded down with communications gear, Aquila only weighs between 880 to 1000 lbs — about a third the weight of a Prius. "When deployed, it will be able to circle a remote region for up to 90 days, beaming connectivity down to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000," the company said in a blog post. This means the planes will be flying at an altitude above commercial aircraft, and even above the weather.

FLYING ABOVE COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT, AND THE WEATHER

This is how it will work: Facebook will have lasers on the ground that can locate the dome-shaped optical head located on the bottom of the plane in the air — basically shooting a laser at a dime-sized target that is more than 10 miles away. The plane will first hone in on the general location of the laser on the ground, proceeding to target it further and lock onto the location so that it can start beaming down the internet. Because the plane requires a connection with the lasers on the ground though, you might experience a slower connection when it's raining or cloudy.

aquila

The plane is built from two layers of lightweight carbon fiber material that sandwich a layer of foam. The planes are intended to stay afloat for three months at a time — presently the record for an aircraft staying afloat is two weeks — which is why the entire outside shell will be covered in solar panels. During the day, when they are fully charged, the planes will fly at an altitude of 90,000 feet. But at night, in order to conserve power, they'll float down to about 60,000 feet, going back up again the following day. This ensures a constant connection to the Internet, because they do not need to come down to be charged.

A BREAKTHROUGH IN LASER PERFORMANCE

Facebook says it has also achieved a significant breakthrough in the speed and accuracy of how these lasers work — they've lab-tested a laser that can deliver data at 10s of gigabytes per second, which is 10 times faster than the current state-of-the-art in the industry.

Facebook plans to use its Aquila fleet to create a linked network that will bring internet access to rural areas. Using a variety of data sources, Facebook can figure out where people are located physically, in order to then decide the most cost effective way to bring them connectivity. As with its internet.org project, Facebook won't provide access directly, and will instead partner with local carriers to offer services.

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Comment by Petr Hubacek on July 30, 2015 at 4:12pm

Nice platform to place a HD cam with an image recognition to survey and save elephants and rhinoceros.

Comment by John on July 30, 2015 at 4:58pm
Wonder how to launch and land it.
Comment by Thomas Stone on July 30, 2015 at 5:33pm

  :)   "They’ve designed and lab-tested a laser that can deliver data ... to a target the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away."  

Comment by benbojangles on July 30, 2015 at 5:34pm

I wonder why they opted for a v-shape? Surely, structurally, such a wide wingspan needs to curve like a longbow. I would have thought this design would cause too much central stress? I guess the rule: launch it and see applies.

Comment by Ravi on July 30, 2015 at 5:50pm

I wonder what autopilot they would be using? may be pixhawk 2

Comment by Dez Socks on July 30, 2015 at 8:08pm

Hand launch? ;)

Comment by HyperGuy on July 30, 2015 at 9:32pm

Its gonna need one huge bungee!!

Comment by Justice Bentz on July 31, 2015 at 11:04am

that is rad.. 

Comment by Harry on July 31, 2015 at 4:32pm

Nice platform for tracking trigger happy dentists?  Oh wait, that would be surveillance and google is only trying to provide internet with this flying wing, but they probably could put some goldfinger knockout gas thing on it and when it detects a firearm in the hands of a dentist while simultaneously providing internet access, poooof, sleepy time.  The bushmen move in and disarm him and all the wildlife cheers for just a moment and then goes back to eating each other.

Comment by Magnus919 on August 10, 2015 at 12:50pm

Private sector develops technology for good that can hit a dime with a laser from 10 miles away... what are the chances that the Pentagon is already looking for ways to kill people with this?

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