TECH

Facebook Drones Program Will Bring The World Online, From The Skies

28/03/2014 11:06 GMT | Updated 28/03/2014 11:59 GMT

Facebook has unveiled its plan to fill the world's skies with internet-connected solar powered drones.

Just weeks after it was rumoured to be in talks to buy a drone-making company for around $600 million, the social network said it was committed to expanding online access in the developing world.

The social network yesterday unveiled its new Connectivity Lab, which includes experts from NASA, and was described as a team working on 'new aerospace and communications technologies' with the overall aim of expanding global Internet access.

facebook drones

The company's founder Mark Zuckerberg, said in a post on his personal Facebook page: "In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we've been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky. Today, we're sharing some details of the work Facebook's Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone."

In a video post on the Facebook website, Yael Maguire from the social network spoke about the different ways the company is looking at extending the reach of existing Internet connections.

"We're looking at a new type of plane architecture that flies at roughly 20,000m, because that's a point where winds are at their lowest, it's above commercial airliners, it's even above the weather, and actually it can stay in the air for months at a time. These planes are solar-powered and they sit there and circle around, and have the ability to broadcast Internet down."

Zuckerberg also announced the industry from the UK was now part of the project.

"Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world's longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft."

The new project is an extension of the Internet.org group which Facebook helped found in 2013 along with other major technology companies like Samsung and Nokia, with the final goal of bringing the Internet to the parts of the world without access.

According to the group, two thirds of the world are without access to the web, and bringing wider access would lead to 'humanity firing on all cylinders' for the first time.

The launch of Facebook's Connectivity Lab follows a similar move from Google with the creation of Google X , a group which is responsible for the development of both Google Glass and the smart contact lenses that were announced in January. These lenses can measure glucose levels in the tear ducts, and could be used to monitor conditions like diabetes.

Facebook offered no details on how far advanced the project was, or any time frame for completion.