It is no secret that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to see the whole humanity connected to the web. Unfortunately internet connections are just not available in many places. But Zuckerberg believes he has a solution for this pesky problem.On Thursday, he announced that Internet.org, an organization that Facebook started in partnership with a few other technology companies, is experimenting with drones that are capable of beaming internet in an area from the sky. “In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
“Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UKbased company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft.”
Internet.org was launched last year with an aim to bring down the cost of internet connectivity across the world so that more people can connect to the web and utilize web services. Last month at Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg revealed that Internet.org was working with several telecom operators across the world to reduce the cost of internet connectivity.
Facebook on Thursday revealed that the team exploring various methods to beam internet from sky is part of Connectivity Lab, a new department within Internet.org. It is exploring various options. A solar-powered drone is one option.
“For suburban areas in limited geographical regions, we’ve been working on solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft that can stay aloft for months, be quickly deployed and deliver reliable internet connections,” Internet.org noted in a statement posted on its website. “For lower-density areas, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites can beam internet access to the ground.” In both cases, the internet connection will be beamed through free-space optical communication, which makes use of “light to transmit data through space using invisible, infrared laser beams”. “Free-space optical communication is a promising technology that potentially allows us to dramatically boost the speed of internet connections provided by satellites and drones,” noted Internet.org.
In his attempts to beam internet from sky, Zuckerberg is not alone. Larry Page and Sergei Brin, co-founders of Google, are also interested in connecting more people to the web. Last year Google announced Project Loon that intends to use high-altitude balloons to deliver fast internet in remote areas. Explaining Project Loon, Google says, “Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. People can connect to the balloon network using a special internet antenna attached to their building.” Google had earlier experimented with Project Loon balloons in New Zealand. The company is now testing these balloons in California.