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Facebook drone provides Internet access to remote regions

05 Aug 2015  | Rich Pell

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Facebook has developed a full-scale version of its solar-powered drone designed to provide Internet connectivity to remote corners of the world. Code-named Aquila, and with a wingspan of a Boeing 737, the connected drone is geared to fly for three months at a time, above weather systems and other aircraft, and create about a 50km communications radius.

It will use free-space laser communication technology to send and receive data to other drones and base stations at up to tens of gigabits per second.

According to the company, the drone will fly at a varying altitude of between 18km to 27km. During the day it will operate at its maximum height to capture as much of the sun's energy as possible, while at night, when not receiving solar energy, it will descend to its lower altitude to conserve energy.

The 399kg-drone will be launched with the help of helium balloons, which will carry it up to its designated altitude. Once aloft, it will constantly circle in a 3km-radius. When it needs to periodically land, it is designed to be able to do so like a glider.

This project is similar to Google's Project Loon.

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