Facebook is on a mission to bring internet to the world. The company stands to make a lot of money by connecting the four billion offline people around the globe.
This summer, the social networking giant made
two breakthroughs in its plan: prototyping a solar-powered, internet-delivering aircraft, as well as a lab-tested laser that can transmit data from that aircraft at 10 gigabits per second. Together, the two could offer wireless internet to even the most isolated regions.
Facebook also recently announced a deal with French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications that will use satellites to beam internet across 14 countries in Africa.
Facebook’s progress earned it a spot on our recent list of the most exciting innovations of the year. Let’s take a closer look at its ground-breaking tech.
When Facebook first set out to bring internet to the world, the team took a hard look at cell towers and other existing infrastructure and decided they wouldn't work.
Yael Maguire, engineering director at Facebook, tells Tech Insider that Facebook started the Connectivity Lab to design systems from scratch. '(We're) developing a new range of technologies to help accelerate the process of bringing connectivity to the unserved and underserved,' he says.
Facebook's solar-powered, internet-delivering aircraft -- named Aquila -- is one of its most promising new solutions.
It uses state-of-the-art laser technology to beam internet to the ground -- 'making it possible to reach the remotest regions of the world,' Macguire says.
Their biggest challenge was designing an aircraft that could maintain flight for long stretches of time.
Aquila can, hypothetically, fly for 90 days straight. (The longest known flight of a craft like Aquila, according to Facebook, lasted just 14 days.)
Here's how it works: A ground station transmits a radio-internet signal to a 'mother aircraft,' which flies anywhere between 60,000 and 90,000 feet off the ground.
The mother aircraft then feeds the signal to other planes via lasers, capable of delivering data at tens of gigabytes per second.
The team leveraged technologies developed for Facebook's data centres and traditional fibre-optic communications, in order to create these lasers.
Aquila beams connectivity to the ground, where small towers and dishes convert the signal into a Wi-Fi or LTW network that people can connect to using their devices.
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