Facebook Drones Could Help Bring Internet Access to Entire World

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 05:48 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pinpointed planes, satellites, and drones as ways to move forward with the company's self-imposed challenge to get Internet access to everyone in the world.

Last year, Zuckerberg announced the formation of Internet.org, a group working to extend Internet connectivity everywhere. This week, Facebook added the Connectivity Lab to that organization.

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The Lab, which brings together experts from Ascenta, NASA, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, is working to use new delivery platforms, like drones, to get everyone, everywhere online, a Facebook announcement said.

Zuckerberg, in a paper published on Internet.org titled “Connecting the World From the Sky,” called expanding Internet access a “powerful tool for change.”

“A recent study by Deloitte found that the Internet is already an important driver of economic growth in many developing countries,” Zuckerberg’s paper said. “Expanding Internet access could create another 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty, and reduce child mortality by hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Zuckerberg credited Internet.org with getting Web access to 3 million people through partnerships formed in Paraguay and the Philippines.

Zuckerberg goes on to explore the physics of aerial connectivity and how different solutions will work in different parts of the world. He detailed how one area of focus using high-altitude drones, flying optimally at 65,000 feet, may help solve some of the challenges of offering connectivity worldwide.

“Our team is actively working on building our first aircraft now,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We recently announced that key members from Ascenta, whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft, will be joining our Connectivity Lab to work on these aircraft. We expect to have an initial version of this system working in the near future.”

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