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Facebook shows off 'Aquila' drone it'll use to bring Internet to the rest of the world

By Shawn Knight · 16 replies
Mar 27, 2015
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  1. facebook aquila drone beam internet access lasers internet mark zuckerberg f8 conference f8 drone internet drone

    Facebook has provided an update on the progress of Internet.org, the social network’s initiative to deliver Internet connectivity to parts of the world that currently lack the necessary infrastructure to do so.

    As you’re likely already aware, Facebook’s plan is to use massive drones to beam connectivity down to people below. The concept isn’t all that different from Google’s Project Loon although the two are going about it in very different ways.

    The actual hardware that Facebook will use, codenamed Aquila, consists of large solar-powered drones with wingspans comparable to a Boeing 767 jet. Because they’ll fly for months at a time, Facebook is constructing them out of lightweight materials. All said and done, a single massive drone will weigh less than a small car.

    Facebook said its drones will use lasers to beam Internet connectivity to people on the ground 60,000 to 90,000 feet below. These lasers will also be used between drones as a form of communication to maintain a blanket of Internet connectivity over a given region.

    The social network expects to eventually launch roughly 1,000 of these drones to connect the rest of the world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the company has successfully completed their first test flight of the aircraft in the UK. Further testing will take place over the summer and gradually roll out to new regions in the coming years.

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,135   +1,552


    On a serious note, how will these things handle weather or are they flying high enough to not have to worry about that. Also, how much damage will one of those cause if they fall out of the sky?
    learninmypc and Wendig0 like this.
  3. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,530   +420

    Well, 60,000-90,000 feet would put it's crusing altitude squarely in the Stratosphere. The atmospheric level below that (Troposphere) is where practically all terran weather occurs, so in ~theory~ these drones will not be affected during normal flight.

    As for how much damage... well it has the wingspan of a 767 (around 150 feet rounding down), and a small car probably weighs between 2000-3250 pounds... so, I dunno a LOT of damage since it'll be dropping at whatever terminal velocity the behemoth of a drone will have?
  4. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,152   +1,411

    yeah, but if it's flying over places where internet isn't otherwise available it's it extremely likely that it'll fall in a farm field or the middle of nowhere?

    I also would expect they'd weight more like 300 lbs than 3000 lbs. A Cessna plane that can carry a couple people only weighs 2500 lbs.

    I don't get why the first thing people think of when some new tech comes along is 'what can go wrong.' They're going to test the crap out of these things before they use them for real. They'll know what'll happen when they crash, they'll know how fast they fall, and they'll build in safety measures. And once they figure all that out... we'll probably all decide the value is greater than the risk.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  5. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,135   +1,552

    Actually, it was the second thing I thought of ;P
  6. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,530   +420

    I completely agree about the actual chances of property damage, but unless it is designed to crumple appart at impact vs just slamming into the ground, it will still likely leave a crater, thus a lot of damage (to the ground).

    As for the weight, a Cessna is something like 4-5 times smaller in wingspan alone. Even being simpler in design and with modern materials it's still going to be fairly heavy. It will have to keep batteries onboard to allow nighttime opperation, all the hardware for electrical generation and conversion, as well as it's electronics suite to beam said internet down to the surface as well as cross drone / base communication. I do agree it will probably be lighter than a small car, but I don't think it will be nearly as light as you suggest.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,877

    You may be overestimating the need for a large battery. The power requirements are no where near the same as a Tesla.
  8. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,530   +420

    Absolutely, but unlike a Tesla those motors will have to run 24/7 unless this is also a record run for extremely efficient gliding. While I'm sure the motors will adjust their output to match conditions as necessary to ensure stability, we're still talking about a pretty sizable flying wing, if the description of it's length and weight are true. There is no way the installed batteries will total anywhere near the size of a Tesla S's battery (which is around 1200lb), but with the ~150ft wingspan frame, skin, electronics suite, motors, solar cells, and batteries, there's no way this thing will as light as Mike suggests.

    This ain't pop's hobby RC plane ha ha, I'd love to see one of these take off when they are completed, it's gonna be cool.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  9. Wendig0

    Wendig0 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,140   +135

    And then facebook went "Pew pew! Pew pew pew!"
  10. Soon after facebook sent out their drones, NSA secretly outfitted these drones with surveillance equipment :D
  11. Tye Lucas

    Tye Lucas TS Rookie Posts: 18

    Why the **** do I need a huge *** glider providing internet for me when I get it through a very nice fiber optic cable in my home?
  12. Did you read the article?

    Facebook has provided an update on the progress of Internet.org, the social network’s initiative to deliver Internet connectivity to parts of the world that currently lack the necessary infrastructure to do so.
    madboyv1 and learninmypc like this.
  13. And US military will modified their MQ-9 Reaper drones to look like as Facebook drones
  14. As a professional communications engineer, I can safely say, "What a load of crap!"
  15. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,877

    Can you elaborate? What would be the issue?
  16. Well Facebook already provide open access to their data to the govt. (despite their counter-claims, I have seen the data the govt. collects on ordinary citizens through Facebook - with the express permission of Facebook). It wouldn't surprise me at all if Facebook use this as an excuse for the US govt. to get spy drones over countries they have so far been denied access to (Zambia for instance).

    Any country that trusts Facebook to honour any deal or have even an ounce of integrity obviously haven't read anything about Facebook, its owners or the US government.

    Why is a private company being given unfettered access to the skies of the world??

    We shall protect our skies, we SHALL destroy ANY drone that enters our airspace WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION to do so.
  17. Really??? You have THAT much trust? This is a corporation we're talking about...you do realise the ONLY thing important to a corporation is the money! If it works out cheaper to pay off people whom have been affected by falling drone than it does to test the drones properly, you know they'll choose the first option AND then say things like "it's just simple economics". People's lives don't matter to corporations, unless it affects their power or their earnings. And THAT is why we should firstly think of the things that will go wrong - being as the first thought that a corporation has is ' How much money can I make?'.

    Facebook is NOT doing this to bring free internet to people, it's doing it to bring advertising to more people. If Facebook cared about people, they wouldn't show whiskey adverts to alcoholics, they wouldn't show soft porn adverts to children, they wouldn't tolerate bullying, they wouldn't allow known terrorists to use their platform to talk to the world from... Facebook are NOT trustworthy. Therefore we should go over their plans with a fine-tooth comb just to be sure that Facebook aren't purposefully or accidentally setting a situation up where people will suffer therein. That's why the first thing we think off SHOULD BE what can go wrong - because the people who create it, are controlled by people who DON'T CARE about you or me or ANY individual!

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