While Project Loon found an initial home in Sri Lanka, Facebook has its own update for its plan to provide wireless internet from the skies.
Mark Zuckerberg announced the completion of Aquila, Facebook’s first full-scale aircraft designed to deliver wireless internet with lasers, as a part of their project with Internet.org. Aquila is solar-powered, weighs “less than a car,” and has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, according to the Facebook post. Mock-ups we’ve seen in the past make it look like a giant boomerang, but the full design resembles more of a slimmed down B-2 stealth bomber. “Aquila” is also a constellation, named after the bird that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts to battle in Greco-Roman mythology.
Facebook has teased the technology they’re using to send the signal, long-range lasers, but today Zuckerberg gave some solid statistics. Aquila will be able to send data at 10 gigabits per second at a distance of more than 10 miles. The internet-providing drone is supposedly precise, too, being able to connect with “a point the size of a dime” at that 10-mile range. In an accompanying video, engineers say that the drone will fly from 60,000 to 90,000 feet above the Earth and stay in the sky 3 months at a time, comparable to Google’s Project Loon balloons. NASA has used lasers to beam information to the moon, but that wasn’t from a mobile, solar-powered drone circling remote regions.
“Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time,” Zuckerberg writes.
Facebook will be testing Aquila over the coming months, and hopefully we can see it in action soon.