World Economy

Facebook, Google to Beam Internet in World’s Remote Areas

Facebook, Google to Beam Internet in World’s Remote Areas Facebook, Google to Beam Internet in World’s Remote Areas

Facebook said it is ready to begin the pilot program of a high-altitude drone that will beam the Internet to remote parts of the world. The solar-powered drone will be able to fly without landing for three months.

Aquila has a 40-meter wingspan–on par with a Boeing 737–weighs less than a car, and can stay aloft at an altitude of 20,000 to 30,000 meters for three months at a time. Test flights will begin later this year, DW reported.

Facebook’s head Mark Zuckerberg announced Aquila in a video posted to his personal page on Thursday night.

“This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure,” Zuckerberg wrote. “To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies. Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction,” he continued. “But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality.”

“A full-scale version of Aquila–the high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft designed by our aerospace team in the UK–is now complete and ready for flight testing,” said Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice president of global engineering and infrastructure.

 Google’s Internet Balloons

In 2011, Google began developing Project Loon, an experimental program to provide free internet access to people in remote rural areas, using high-altitude balloons floating in the stratosphere. After test runs in New Zealand, Brazil and the US, Project Loon is finally ready to…balloon. In 2016, Google will deploy balloons all over Sri Lanka, filling in its coverage gaps and effectively blanketing the entire island nation with broadband internet, Quartz reported Friday.

Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s deputy minister of economic development, celebrated the news on Facebook. “Hopefully in a few months every person and every device on the island will be covered by 3G,” he said. Project Loon director Mike Cassidy traveled to Sri Lanka  on July 28 to finalize the agreement with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

According to, all 13 helium-filled balloons should be ready by March. They’ll be placed in the stratosphere—roughly 12 miles (19 kilometers) up in the sky, scraping the edge of space. That’s about twice as high as the altitude at which most commercial planes fly. Earthlings can then connect to the floating balloon network directly from their phones. Each balloon covers up to 25 miles (40 km) in diameter on the ground.

Unfortunately, the balloons can’t stay up there forever—Google plans to replace them every 100 days or so. In order to keep their operational costs down, local internet service providers will have access to them.