Facebook wants to do test flights of small, wireless-beaming drones above its headquarters

Facebook drone test flightFacebookFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

The skies above Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters may soon be buzzing with the sound of quadcopter drones.

That’s because the company plans to fly at least one small, wireless-beaming drone at an altitude of 400 feet around its headquarters in the coming months.

Recently filed documents with the FCC show that Facebook has requested the right to operate an experimental radio in the 2.4 GHz band.

“The purpose of this operation is to test potential new communications applications and equipment in a controlled, low-altitude airborne environment,” one filing says.

A separate filing notes that the testing will take place in the city of Menlo Park, California, and will involve a maximum flight level of 400 feet.

The filings, which Facebook made under its FCL Tech drone subsidiary, says it wants to conduct the tests between October and April. Mike Johnson, Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel, is listed as the point of contact on the filing.

Facebook is building solar-powered “Aquila” drones to deliver internet access to various parts of the world. The drones are very large, with the wingspan of a Boeing 737, and are designed to fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet for up to three months at a time. Facebook is testing those drones in Arizona.

The fact that Facebook will be flying smaller, gadget-sized drones in Menlo Park does not mean the company is developing a new crop of smaller, quadcopter or octocopter drones, a source familiar with the matter tells Business Insider. The smaller drone is simply being used to test the wireless technology, which Facebook thinks could be used with its larger, Aquila drones.

Facebook is in a race with Google to build and deploy various airborne technologies that can deliver ubiquitous internet access to consumers and increase the use of each company’s respective online services. Facebook suffered a big setback last month when its first satellite was destroyed in the SpaceX rocket explosion.

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