Facebook To Offer Internet Using Solar Drones; Unveils ‘Gimbal’ To Provide Ground-To-Air Laser Connectivity


Facebook Aquila Solar Drone

Disappointments in implementing Free Basics faced by Mark Zuckerberg in India and some other countries hasn’t deterred him from going all out to fulfill his dream of connecting 4 billion unconnected people with Internet.

And as per recent reports coming in, Facebook is on its way to bring out something monumental and historic. As part of Facebook’s plans to provide Internet at deep rural areas using drones, two major developments have happened which is certainly encouraging.

Technology For Laser Beam

Facebook is planning to use solar drones which will beam Internet connectivity to users who are residing at areas where wired connectivity hasn’t reached. However, the challenge is that, laser beam’s accuracy may or may not be so accurate that it directly reaches the end users’ gadget.

In fact, during last month’s Mobile Congress at Barcelona, Mark Zuckerberg said that asking a drone flying at 80,000 feet to directly provide laser induced Internet to an end user on ground is same like shooting a laser from California, and asking it to hit a coin at Empire State Building in New York.

In order to overcome this challenge, scientists at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab have developed a ‘gimbal’, which will hang on the under-belly of the drones, and shall provide Internet connectivity directly to the end user. This gimbal was unveiled this week by Facebook, and the tech community is excited with the prospects.

This gimbal has been made from carbon fiber and a magnesium composite, which has enabled it to be lighter, and more efficient. Using WiFi or LTE technology, these drones shall be able to provide Internet to the end user; and these new gimbal will have a very important role to play.

Facebook Hires Special Lawyer

Besides, in other news, Facebook has hired a specialized lawyer, who is an expert in dealing Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In order to use drones to provide internet to poor people, they need Federal Communications Commission’s approval and permission (atleast in the US); and in order to avoid any legal mishaps and complexities, they have already sought expert legal help.

Across various job portals, Facebook has already listed jobs such as “Space-based and Stratospheric Connectivity Policy Lead” and a “Terrestrial Spectrum Policy Lead.”

Besides, as per the latest developments, unlike Google, Facebook doesn’t want to develop a network; but it will develop the technology which can be used by other network providers to scale and expand. Nokia, Qualcomm among others are already working with Facebook to take it forward.

It would be interesting to observe how Facebook deals with Net Neutrality and differential pricing of the Internet they provide using drones. In case they are looking to provide restricted access to web, then there ain’t much point in doing the whole exercise.

Google is already making inroads to provide Internet using balloons via their Project Loon; whereas Microsoft is attempting to use White Space Technology for the same.

We will keep you updated as more details come in.

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