Google and Facebook want to bring the world online with drones

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Google has acquired Titan Aerospace and plans to use solar-powered drones to blanket the world in internet access. Google want to spread Internet access around the world, especially to underdeveloped regions. Although the two companies will still operate individually, Titan will team up with Google on its Maps service as well as Project Loon, which aims to spread Internet service by using giant, high-altitude balloons. Turns out Facebook has the exact same idea.

The type of consumer qudacopters designed for aerial photography and FPV racing aren’t ideal for automated delivery–you can’t just tie a string to a Phantom. At Maker Faire, we learn about Google’s Project Wing prototype, which has a lightweight VTOL design that allows it to take off vertically and still fly long distances. It’s even been tested in the field!

Facebook reportedly wants to use drones to bring Internet to the two thirds of the world that don’t have it, starting with parts of Africa.

Facebook will pay $60 million to acquire Titan Aerospace, a company that makes solar-powered drones.

Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s Connectivity Lab which will work on the Internet.org project. It’s powered by talent acqhired from solar-powered drone maker Ascenta as well as poached from NASA.

Internet.org, a partnership between Facebook and telecom industry giants like Nokia and Qualcomm, hopes to use these air- and space-born methods to bring Internet to the 5 billion people who currently lack it. Zuckerberg says that Internet.org and Facebook will work on inventing new technologies to complete the mission.

Internet.org will use different vehicles to deliver Internet to different types of locals. In suburban areas it will use “solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft” that can stay in the air for month, are easily deployed, and can provide reliable Internet connectivity. Less populated areas will be served by low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites.

While they both have somewhat altruistic objectives, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab could compete with Google’s Project Loon, which uses huge helium balloon vessels to beam Internet to the developing world.

In his Facebook post , Zuckerberg explains:

We’ve made good progress so far. Over the past year, our work in the Philippines and Paraguay alone has doubled the number of people using mobile data with the operators we’ve partnered with, helping 3 million new people access the internet.

We’re going to continue building these partnerships, but connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too. That’s what our Connectivity Lab focuses on, and there’s a lot more exciting work to do here.

Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft.

You can find more details on our efforts below. We’re looking forward to working with our Internet.org partners and operators worldwide to deploy these technologies and deliver on the dream of connecting the world.

Do you think Facebook or Google really cares about bringing Internet to the two thirds of the world that don’t have it — or are they more interested in expanding their user base to the two thirds of the world that have yet to join the social network?

 

At Facebook’s F8 conference, Mike Schroepfer, the company’s CTO, discusses Facebook’s plan to make Internet access more ubiquitous through the use of solar-powered drone technology.

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