FACEBOOK has completed its first test of a solar-powered drone that carries internet signal in the skies above the UK, the social network’s chief Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
In a blog post, Mr Zuckerberg confirmed the project, which Facebook has been working on as part of its Internet.org scheme to get the entire world online, had now seen its first test flight carried out.
“As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we’ve designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky,” he said.
“Today, I’m excited to share that we’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK.”
The drones have been developed by Somerset-based company Ascenta, which was bought by Facebook in March 2014, and are capable of flying at 60,000 feet for months at a time, driven by solar power.
The aircraft has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737, but weigh less than a car.
They will circle at high altitude and beam down laser-guided internet signals to those below. Facebook says this will bring online connectivity to remote locations, previously inaccessible, for the first time.
“Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure,” Mr Zuckerberg added.
The Internet.org initiative is Facebook’s attempt to build on its already 1.3 billion user base by connecting the rest of the world to the internet.
As part of a keynote speech at the social network’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco, the firm’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said: “we need to connect all those on the internet who aren’t yet connected.”
Fellow technology giant Google is also working on an air-based internet connection solution in the form of its Project Loon, which is using high-altitude weather balloons to provide a data connection.
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