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Facebook to test 747-sized drones that will beam broadband to the entire world

Despite they're vastness they could be lifted by one strong human

Christopher Hooton
Friday 27 March 2015 12:27 GMT

Facebook has announced plans to test its ambitious Aquila drone program this summer.

The solar-powered unmanned aircraft will have the wingspan of a commercial passenger jet, a length equivalent to "six or seven Toyota Priuses" but only weigh about the same as four car tyres.

They will be capable of beaming broadband around the world, helping Facebook towards its dream of providing internet access to the two-thirds of the planet still without it.

"We are working towards a real test flight this summer sometime," vice president of engineering Jay Parikh told The Wall Street Journal.

An illustration of Google's balloon-based internet system, Project Loon

A one tenth-size version was tested earlier in the month, but this will be a much bigger undertaking.

"Depending on how this test flight goes, we'll see what happens," Parikh added. "This is a big plane, this is a big project and it’s never been done before."

The project makes use of solar and battery technology that has only just been developed, so it is still very much in the experimental phase and the drones are unlikely to be launched commercially anytime soon.

There is also the matter of securing deals with internet carriers, as Facebook has denied it will start its own ISP, saying it would go against the company's core goals.

Google is also working on a mass-internet plan, Project Loon, but using a less sexy method involving swarms of balloons.


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