“Imagine for the first time in history, humanity firing on all cylinders, everyone, everywhere, new voices, new dreams and new inspirations” (Internet.org). With Facebook’s latest technological advancement in aerospace, we are now a step closer to achieving Mark Zuckerberg’s global vision. Specifically, a worldwide web that really is accessible to everyone worldwide through the provision of 24/7 internet coverage to people currently without access!
On 30th June, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook have completed the construction of their first full-scale aircraft which beams down internet connectivity from the sky! The aircraft, code-named ‘Aquila’ is described as being a solar powered unmanned plane with a wingspan of a Boeing 737 which was completed in less than 14 months.
Click to enlarge image: Facebook Newsroom
Yael Maguire, Facebooks Engineering Director of Connectivity, stated that ‘the plane will operate between 60,000ft (18km) and 90,000ft (27km) – above the altitude of commercial airplanes – so it would not be affected by weather’ (Guardian). The frame is made out of carbon fibre which makes it lighter than an average hatchback automobile and the craft is said to be able to fly in the air for up to 90 days at a time. Indeed, in Maguire’s recent Facebook post he stated that “Aquila (Latin for Eagle), has been flying in sub-scale form for many months now in the U.K”. So with the full scale model now completed, the next steps are to test the systems in real world situations in the upcoming months, with a view to continuing to improve and refine this ground-breaking technology.
For those of you who missed our previous blog which touched on this subject, the aim of this project is to provide affordable access to basic internet services to everyone in the world. To achieve this, Facebook plan to use a network of lasers, satellites and drones, to deliver internet access to the most remote corners of the world! According to Zuckerberg “Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure,” (Guardian).
The implications of the completion of this incredible project are vast! “The internet is one of the most powerful tools for economic and social progress. It gives people access to jobs, knowledge and opportunities. It gives voice to the voiceless in our society, and it connects people with vital resources for health and education” (Zuckerberg). These are of course all true and valid points, but let’s not forget that Facebook has a vested interest in connecting the remaining billions to the internet and that of course is the additional revenue streams it will provide them (Guardian). They are in fact part of a modern day race for air space as Google’s project loon moves ever onwards, with Sri Lanka now signed up to use their high-altitude balloons to bring the internet to remote areas (The Drum). With giant steps being made towards a world in which everyone has internet access, it remains to be seen exactly how Facebook’s plans will be rolled out to an eagerly awaiting world and indeed, who will be the winners in the race to connect the next wave of internet users.