Aquila, is the first full scale drone invented by Facebook which is aimed to provide internet access in remote parts of the world. The drone will be able to fly without landing for three months at a time, using a laser to beam data to a base station on the ground. However, Facebook intends to not be directly involved in providing internet in rural areas but intends to foster a partnership with local ISPs to offer the services to rural areas. The aircraft/drone used for the same purpose has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and will operate between 60,000ft (18kms) and 90,000ft (27km) above the altitude of commercial airplanes thereby remaining unaffected by the weather at all times.
The technology involved in the drone will be of such nature that during the day it will fly at its maximum height before gliding slowly down to its lowest ebb at night, to conserve power when its solar panels are not receiving charge. Noteworthy is the fact that Facebook will be the first company to take such an initiative to fly at such altitudes and hence the need of the hour is to develop guidelines or to implement policies keeping the same in mind. Designed to fly at high altitudes for up to three months, it will use lasers to send internet signals to stations on the ground. The project is part of a broader Facebook effort that also contemplates using satellites and other high tech gear to deliver internet service to masses living in regions too remote for conventional broadband networks.
Notably, the drone does not have any wheels installed therefore it will be launched with the help of helium balloons which will take it up to its preferred height and will constantly move to stay aloft in a radius of 3 km. Seemingly, the competitive advantage that Facebook had, is no longer in lieu of the fact that Google also aims to bring wireless internet to rural communities, using high altitude helium balloons.
The biggest drawback of this free service is the fact that one cannot access the open web through the same service but can only access websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia, weather, job listings and government info. Notwithstanding the above, Facebook’s drone has been developed in part with engineering expertise that joined the company when it acquired a British aerospace startup, Ascenta, last year. For the drone plan to work it is of pertinent importance that the technology of laser optics is upgraded so that it would be able to transmit data at up to 10 gigabits per second. Nevertheless, the plan of implementation that Facebook adopts is to be seen.
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