Facebook is working on solar-powered drones to deliver and improve internet access around the world.
The social network has unveiled its new Connectivity Lab, which includes experts from Nasa, and was described as a team working on “new aerospace and communications technologies” with the overall aim of expanding global internet access.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page: “In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky. Today, we’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.”
In a video post on the Facebook website, Yael Maguire from the social network spoke about the different ways the company is looking at to extend the reach of existing internet connections.
“We’re looking at a new type of plane architecture that flies at roughly 20,000m, because that’s a point where winds are at their lowest, it’s above commercial airliners, it’s even above the weather, and actually it can stay in the air for months at a time. These planes are solar-powered and they sit there and circle around, and have the ability to broadcast internet down.”
Mr Zuckerberg also announced the industry from the UK was now part of the project.
“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.”
The new project is an extension of the Internet.org group which Facebook helped found in 2013 along with other major technology companies like Samsung and Nokia, with the final goal of bringing the internet to the parts of the world without access.
According to the group, two thirds of the world are without access to the web, and bringing wider access would lead to “humanity firing on all cylinders”.
The launch of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab follows a similar move from Google with the creation of Google X .