Facebook ‘laser drones’ to boost rural web access

31/03/2015

Facebook has tested a solar-powered drone that carries internet signal in the skies above the UK, beaming down laser-guided signals to remote locations which do not have internet access.

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Mark Zuckerberg said the first phase of test flights had been carried out as part of its Internet.org scheme to get the entire world online.

In a post on the site he said: "As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky.

"Today, I'm excited to share that we've successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK."

The drones were developed by Somerset-based company Ascenta which Facebook bought last year.

The drones can fly at 60,000 feet for months at a time and are driven by solar power.
The aircraft has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 yet weighs less than a car.

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Circling at high altitude, the drones will beam down laser-guided signals to remote locations which do not currently have reliable internet access.

He added: "Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure."

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Facebook wants to boost its 1.3 billion user base by connecting more of the world to the web.
Google is also working on an air-based internet connection solution in the form of its Project Loon, which is using high-altitude weather balloons to provide a data connection.

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