Social media giant Facebook has taken another step into the future with an innovative aeroplane offering internet to millions of people who are cut off.
It may seem impossible to imagine for those of us in the Western world, but 60% of the global population does not have access to the internet. Furthermore, 1.6 billion people live in such remote and difficult locations that there is no access to broadband, and even bringing in existing network technology costs so much that it will take years to bring the internet to everyone.
This is where Facebook has taken a groundbreaking new step.
The campaign Internet.org aims to bring internet access to the parts of the world that are cut off and is being lead by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire. As part of the company’s pledge to this campaign, Facebook launched an unmanned airplane which brings the internet to you. The incredible, solar-powered aircraft was created in the Facebook Connectivity Lab. This month, the unmanned aircraft, built as part of this project, took its very first full-scale test flight.
Named Aquila, the airplane will bring affordable internet connections to hundreds of millions of people living in the most remote places. Aquila will be able to circle around a 60-mile area and beam down signals from 60,000 feet. When it is finished, the aircraft will be able to fly for three months at a time, making sure people in these areas can connect regularly.
Although Aquila is the same width as a traditional airliner, it only uses the same amount of energy as three hairdryers. Scientists working from Facebook’s Connectivity Lab have been trialling the idea with a model of Aquila one fifth of the real size, but this week saw the launch of the full size craft for the first time. It flew for 90 minutes and the entire flight was deemed a success.
So as the engineers ready for more testing and tweaks to the overall finished product, could this mean the end of internet black spots? One thing is for sure: bringing internet access to some of the most remote areas in the world would certainly help those communities to thrive.