After revealing that they would create Internet-beaming planes, Facebook has now shed more light on the ambitious project.
Although it’s only been around for a few decades, the Internet has entirely changed the way we do things and even how we think. Beyond the fact that ‘I can Google it’ is now a phrase (along with LOL, LMAO and adorkable) the Internet has gifted us such incredible opportunities like watching TV shows without actually having to turn our TVs on, saving lives (or alarming hypochondriacs) via the means of webMD and most notably, it has even led to entire revolutions with populations of certain countries using social media to inspire democracy. But imagine that you live in a location where the Internet doesn’t exist. Not just a spotty connection that makes your Netflix stream a bit laggy but entire lifetimes of being offline. Absolutely dreadful. Facebook wants to fix that though, with massive, Internet-beaming planes.
According to Facebook themselves, their Internet plane project (created in partnership with Internet.org) will get the remaining 15% of the global population, who aren’t yet connected, online. Speaking to Mashable, the social media company says that not only will they fly across 21 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia but that they’ll also do so at an impressively high altitude “that’s between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Routinely, planes don’t fly there, and certainly not drones.”
These Internet gifting planes will also be massive, “roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747,” with one plane that the team is working on being the length of “about six or seven Priuses, but is the weight of four of the tires of a Prius,” according to Yael Maguire, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab.
Plenty of environmentally conscious folks will be wary of so many planes that size adding to the existing number, but Facebook explains that due to technical restrictions the planes won’t actually use fuel at all. As the planes will fly for several months at a time, they’ll have to be solar powered as there’s no fuel that allows a plane to fly for that long. So renewable energy is in by default, but there are still other questions that remain.
Other questions have been posed such as how the planes will be piloted. Each plane is unmanned, Facebook says, and they’re operating under a one pilot per plane rule at the moment but with their ultimate goal being ‘connect everyone in the world to the Internet’ that policy, for want of a better phrase, just isn’t going to fly. Furthermore, there’s also no regulation about flying planes that high, nor is there a policy about beaming Internet to people from them so this is something that Facebook will have to consider in good time.
They are on course for a test in 2015 though, flying over an unnamed US location (they may not even reveal the location) and Facebook hopes to put their Internet planes in action in the next three or five years or so. We’ll keep you posted.
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