Facebook has shown off its Aquila internet drone for the first time, which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg boasted has a wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 737.
The craft has been designed by Facebook’s aerospace team in the UK, and is now ready for its first test flights, the firm said. Facebook has already tested a version of Aquila in the UK, but this was not a full-scale machine (pictured below).
Aquila is built around a carbon-fibre frame that makes it incredibly light, and is solar-powered, meaning that it can stay airborne for up to 90 days at an altitude of 60,000ft to 90,000ft, Facebook said.
Facebook's goal is to launch a series of the drones that will beam internet signals down to remote areas of the globe, such as in Africa, removing the need for costly and challenging fixed-internet infrastructure installations.
In conjunction with this development Facebook has also developed a laser that can beam data at "10s of gigabits per second”, 10 times faster than previous industry bests, over 10 miles and onto a spot as small as a coin.
Facebook will now begin testing the lasers in real-world conditions, which it said will be key to the creation of Facebook’s plan for drones to beam internet access to ground stations.
“When finished, our laser communications system can be used to connect our aircraft with each other and with the ground, making it possible to create a stratospheric network that can extend to even the remotest regions of the world,” the firm said.
Announcing the development on his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg admitted that using giant drones to beam lasers onto the Earth might “seem like science fiction” but is, in fact, the future of global internet connectivity.
“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,” he said.
A video showcasing the work of the Facebook drone team and its ambitions is embedded below.
Take a look inside Facebook's Connectivity Lab - an important part of our effort to bring connectivity to the billions of people who are unconnected today.Posted by Facebook Engineering on Thursday, July 30, 2015
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