Facebook has successfully completed the first trials of its unmanned drones in the skies above Britain, the Guardian reports.
In a post on his profile, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerbeg announced that the company has run test flights of its experimental drones designed to provide low-cost Internet access around the world.
The final designs will be larger than a Boeing 737, fly at 60,000 feet for months at a time, and will beam down Internet access from the sky using lasers as part of the Internet.org initiative.
Zuckerberg will expand on the announcement at a keynote speech at the F8 keynote speech later today, but what’s particularly interesting is Facebook’s chosen site for the test: Britain.
Britain is fast becoming the drone capital of the world, and American companies are increasingly turning to the island nation to test out their new tech. Amazon is one major example: The online retail giant is keen to experiment with using drones for deliveries, but America’ proscriptive regulations make it nearly impossible to carry out trials at home. When it finally got FAA approval for testing last week, the tech it related to was already obsolete.
Amazon now operates a research centre in Cambridge, England. The Telegraph reports British transport minister Robert Goodwill says the company approached him “to ask about starting drone trials in the UK because regulations in the US were too restrictive. So much for land of the free.” Amazon may soon start trialing its drone delivery program, Amazon Prime Air, in the UK.
Goodwill added that the the UK is not just working with Amazon — “[The] Government is working on the whole issue of drones. We’re meeting with the British Airline Pilots Association and we’re both keen to innovate.”
As drones rapidly move from niche hobby to consumer product, Britain is determined to carve itself out a major slice of the pie. Drone entrepreneur Giles Moore told the Guardian that “a lot of countries already use the UK’s regulations on drones as a benchmark.”
And it’s easy to see why Britain is so interested: Analysts predict that the market for drones will grow to more than $US80 billion by 2025, according to CBS.
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