Facebook is building a fleet of V-shaped unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, to help the company with its Internet.org project that aims to beam Internet access to the 5 billion people that don’t have it yet.
According to a report from The New York Times, Facebook has a codename for its drone: Aquila, which is also the name of the eagle in Greek mythology that carries Zeus’s thunderbolts for him.
Aquila can reportedly stay in the air for up to three months at a time, and beam high-speed internet from between 60,000 and 90,000 feet in the air. They will be lighter than a small car, but as long as a Boeing 767.
The first flights will reportedly begin this summer, although “commercial deployment may take years,” the Times notes. Facebook executives are not sure how much the final version of Aquila will cost the company.
Aquila was accomplished via Facebook’s acquisition of the drone maker Ascenta in 2014, according to the Times. But now that this project is under Facebook’s wing, the company is also looking for partners to help get the project off the ground, in return for allowing those companies to use their data and technology.
The Internet.org initiative, which was created in August 2013, is one of the main ways Facebook looks to spread its influence. By partnering up with mobile companies like Samsung, Qualcomm, and Microsoft, Facebook hopes to eventually offer universal affordable internet access, similar to Google’s Project Loon, where high flying balloons beam down WiFi to areas without internet.
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