One of the big challenges of the 21st century is going to be providing internet access for everyone, not just those who can afford it or live close to a public library. Facebook has been one of the pioneers in that challenge, with the unveiling of Aquila, a solar powered airplane that’s only the latest step in the company’s Internet.org initiative.
The idea behind Aquila is that the automated plane will fly 60,000 and 90,000 feet above communities which previously had no access to the internet, delivering connectivity literally from above. And the plane’s solar panels will hopefully keep it aloft for as much as 90 days at a time.
Aquila was unveiled by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on, naturally, Facebook – you can watch the plane’s introductory video below. And for more on Facebook’s mission to cover the entire world in internet access, head over to Internet.org here.
Here’s the video:
I’m excited to announce we’ve completed construction of our first full scale aircraft, Aquila, as part of our Internet.org effort.
Aquila is a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity from the sky. It has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a car and can stay in the air for months at a time.
We’ve also made a breakthrough in laser communications technology. We’ve successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second. That’s ten times faster than any previous system, and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.
This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies.
Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality. Here’s a video showing the building of Aquila.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, July 30, 2015