Facebook Hopes Drones Will Expand Global Internet Connectivity

Facebook has long expressed its goal to connect as many people as possible. The company already has a reported 1.4 billion users, but has plans to expand well beyond these numbers by launching drones that can provide high-speed connectivity to even the most remote areas of the world. The drones would resemble a Boeing 767 in width, weigh less than a small vehicle and help Facebook connect with the roughly 5 billion people that it does not already reach on a global scale. 

facebook33“Facebook’s drone team, which came to the company through the acquisition last year of the drone maker Ascenta, say they believe their solar-powered craft can eventually be aloft up to three months at a time, beaming high-speed data from 60,000 to 90,000 feet to some of the world’s remotest regions via laser,” reports The New York Times. “Test flights are to begin this summer, though full commercial deployment may take years.”

While Facebook would first have to receive government approval to move forward with such an ambitious plan, the company envisions as many as 1,000 drones in the air to achieve its mission (in areas too remote for drones, satellites could be used). “We want to serve every person in the world,” said Yael Maguire, head of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab.

Additionally, Facebook is planning to focus on artificial intelligence. It has already worked with other companies such as Twitter and Google to help improve Torche, an open-source AI software.

“For the long term, [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg hopes Facebook’s AI will translate languages on the fly, know strangers you might meet and, of course, bring you the highest-value ads,” NYT explains.