Facebook builds drone to deliver the Internet

Net neutrality defenders have criticized Facebook for attempting to deliver a carefully curated and limited version of the Internet.

By Brooks Hays
Facebook's Internet-delivery drone weighs just 880 pounds and can remain airborne for 90 days. Photo by Facebook
Facebook's Internet-delivery drone weighs just 880 pounds and can remain airborne for 90 days. Photo by Facebook

LONDON, July 31 (UPI) -- Facebook is on a mission to give even the globe's most rural residents a taste of the Internet. To deliver Internet service to remote locales, the social media giant has built a sizable solar-powered drone called Aquila.

The unmanned aircraft has the wingspan of a Boeing 737. It can fly as high as 90,000 feet and remain airborne for nearly three months. Using laser technology, the drone will be capable of delivering super fast wireless Internet to targeted locations.


Facebook hopes the drone can deliver the Internet to the 10 percent of the world's population that lacks connectivity options.

"They've designed and lab-tested a laser that can deliver data at 10s of Gb per second -- approximately 10 times faster than the previous state-of-the-art in the industry -- to a target the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away," Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of global engineering and infrastructure, said in a blog update, speaking of efforts of Facebook's aerospace team in the United Kingdom.

The aircraft resembles the Reaper drone used by the U.S. military, but at just 880 pounds, it's a fifth as heavy. Without wheels or the thrust to take off, the plane must be lifted by helium balloons and released into flight.


While Facebook's efforts seem impressive, not everyone is clapping.

The company last year launched a free Internet project, called, aimed at bringing smartphone connectivity to remote regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Access was limited, however, to Facebook, Wikipedia, weather, job listings and government sites, angering defenders of net neutrality.

Earlier this year, one of the Internet's inventors, Tim Berners-Lee, suggested users should decline Facebook's offer.

"In the particular case of somebody who's offering ... something which is branded internet, it's not internet, then you just say no," he told the Guardian. "No it isn't free, no it isn't in the public domain, there are other ways of reducing the price of internet connectivity and giving something ... [only] giving people data connectivity to part of the network deliberately, I think is a step backwards."

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