Posted By Simon Montford on Nov 18, 2014
Last year (2013) Google announced Project Loon, the brainchild of Google’s secret lab (GoogleX) that works on “moonshot projects". According to Google, (see video below) two out of three people (that's 5-6bn) on the planet don’t have Internet access.
Google's aim is to built a network of solar powered balloons that are carried 20kms up by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial aircraft. Populations below will be able to access the Internet at 3G speeds or faster. Testing is going on in New Zealand and Australia.
Facebook's approach is rather different. The company plans to propel Jumbo Jet-sized drones into the hemisphere that will be able to keep flying for months or years. The drones will need to fly above weather and manned aircraft airspace to ensure operational safely.
Facebook plans to test one of their drones in the States next year and hopefully in another 21 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Obtaining permission to enter the airspace of all those countries will surely take time. Perhaps they should build a stealth version, which would negate the need to go through all that bureaucracy! Asking for forgiveness instead of permission is the hacker way, after all. "Move fast and break things", as the saying goes. ;)
N.B. Facebook recently acquired Ascenta, a UK-based solar-powered drone company for $20m (£12m), and Titan Aerospace, creator of The Solara 50 (below), an unmanned solar-powered UAV with expansive satellite capabilities, was recently acquired by Google.
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