Facebook is using 'experimental' technology from Raytheon in latest aircraft tests

Mark zuckerbergSteve Jennings/GettyFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook wants to conduct testing of airborne wireless technology in Southern California next month using experimental technology made by defence contractor Raytheon, according to a recent FCC filing.

The filing asks the FCC for special authority to test “applications for air to ground communications in the E-band.”

The filing was submitted by FCL Tech Inc, a subsidiary that Facebook created for its Connectivity Lab initiatives, which involve using drones to offer internet access in underserved parts of the world.

Facebook plans to test an application “by operating one ground station and one aeroplane-mounted station. Each station will have one E-band radio and one discovery radio operating at 2.385 GHz,” the filing said.

Facebook wants to test the technology in Camarillo, California, about 52 miles from Los Angeles, between December and March, according to the filing.

Facebook is developing its own drone, called the Aquila, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and is capable of flying for up to consecutive days at an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. The company’s Connectivity Lab also has a team in Woodland Hills, California, working on laser communications technology capable of transmitting high-speed data that Facebook hopes to use with the drones.

Facebook and Google are both racing to develop drones and other technology to blanket the globe with internet access. Earlier this year, Google received approval from the FCC to test a communications system using an aircraft and fixed-ground locations in in New Mexico, Oregon, and California.

The proposed Facebook tests will involve an “experimental” technology made by Raytheon, a defence contractor whose products include everything from the Tomahawk missile to radar systems, as well as a Silvus Technologies radio designed for “mesh networking in harsh environments,” according to the company’s website.

The filing noted that the tests will involve wireless spectrum at 2.385 GHz, 71 to 76 GHz, and 81 to 86 GHz.

We’ve reached out to Facebook and will update the story if we hear back.

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