This article titled “Facebook successfully tests laser drones in UK skies” was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th March 2015 11.07 UTC
Facebook has been testing large, solar-powered drones in the skies over the UK, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
The drones use lasers to beam internet access down to the ground, designed to provide connections to rural and internet-free zones.
“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,” said Zuckerberg in a blog post. “We’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK.”
Developed by Ascenta, a Somerset-based designer of solar-powered drones bought by Facebook in March 2014, the drones will be able to fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet for months at a time on solar power. They will have wingspans greater than 29m, or that of a Boeing 737, but weigh less than a car.
“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,” said Zuckerberg.
The drones form part of Facebook’s internet.org initiative that aims to connect the next billion people to the internet, creating new markets for the social network which already connects 1.39 billion monthly active users.
Facebook’s artificial intelligence group is already planning for the flood of new users by developing technology to help them cope with the surge in messages and photos on the social network.
“If we achieve our first goal, get everyone on the internet, build services at scale for the entire planet, we create this new problem: so much information you can’t consume the stuff that’s important to you,” Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, told the F8 developers conference in San Francisco, explaining how the company’s artificial intelligence group is working to solve information overload.
Google is also planning to provide internet access to non-connected areas using both high altitude balloons and drones, buying American drone firm Titan Aerospace in April last year.
The two US technology firms are fighting it out to become the pipe and hub that serves both new users and an untapped resource for marketers.
• Why Facebook and Google are buying into drones
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