Facebook’s Internet Laser Drone is Here

The company has finished creating its first full scale aircraft to bring internet access to the world.

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Jul 31 2015, 3:30pm

Screenshot: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg has come one step closer to his goal to bring internet access to everyone on the planet with the construction of an unmanned connected aircraft, or drone, that Facebook will test over the coming months.

He announced on his Facebook page Thursday evening the company has completed construction of Aquila, the first full scale aircraft that will beam down internet connection as it soars at 60,000 feet, above commercial flights. The drone can fly for up to three months at a time and will connect remote areas around the earth using lasers and radio frequency technology.

"Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction," Zuckerberg wrote. "But science fiction is often just science before its time."

The system works by transmitting a radio internet signal from a gateway station on the ground to a unmanned "mother ship" like this one, which will feed it to other aircraft in the fleet using laser technology. Those vehicles will then beam the data down to remote areas. Zuckerberg said the system was designed to affordably connect remote areas, including the 10 percent of the world's population that lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure

Facebook announced its Internet.org campaign in 2013 and has been developing technology ever since. Some human rights groups have raised security and privacy concerns about the Facebook-controlled internet, but it's clear they have lofty goals to connect everyone on the planet.

"When you bring a road to a rural area, it always improves their lives," one engineer says in the video. "Similarly when you bring an information highway to a place, it will really improve their livelihood."