Facebook, Google in New Drone Race

Facebook and Google appear to be in a race to develop large solar drones that can deliver high-speed mobile connectivity from the stratosphere.

Facebook is currently hunting for talent to help it build solar drones in the UK. The social media giant, you'll recall, bought British solar drone specialist in March. (See Facebook Buys British Drone Specialist.)

Facebook is now advertising for engineers and more talent to help it with the drone project. Positions available include Lead Aerospace Mechanical Technician, which appears to be a key role from the job ad:

    Facebook is looking for someone to lead the Airframe assembly efforts during the development phases of its high-altitude solar powered aircraft. A successful candidate will be able to lead all efforts around airframe assembly and integration.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is undertaking similar efforts in the US, staffing up its Titan Aerospace solar drone operations in New Mexico. Light Reading reported in September that the search giant is working with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to try and secure a commercial license to test these solar drones in American airspace. (See Google Working With FAA on US Drone License.)

Watching the skies? Keep up with our drone coverage on the IoT channel here on Light Reading.

These solar drones are quite different in intent from the hobbyist helicopters and military drones that take to the air today. They are intended to be massive, self-sufficient communications platforms that can stay in the air for years at a time, thanks to the power of the sun.

Where these initial development efforts take place could be key to how quickly these solar behemoths take to the sky. Congress has tasked the FAA with outlining a plan for the commercial use of drones in US skies by September 15, 2015. The agency, however, has made it clear that it will take a phased approach to unmanned aircraft, and has been seen by some in the aviation community as dragging its heels on this matter.

There are some signs, though, that this is starting to change: On September 25, the agency revealed that it "has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System."

In total, the FAA is currently considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities, an agency spokeswoman said last week.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 10/29/2014 | 12:50:00 AM
Re: These ain't delivery drones! Might ? Will... A non issue compared to all the other ways y'all will be getting tracked on the ground.
Kruz 10/29/2014 | 12:44:19 AM
Re: These ain't delivery drones! A possible nightmare to privacy as well as drones might well collect data while being up.
pcharles09 10/28/2014 | 8:35:25 PM
Re: Solar drones @billsblots,

As they always say, if it's important it should be tracked.

This is LR telling us we're important.
raul 10/23/2014 | 7:52:21 PM
Re: Need some more stuff to study this... hello fellas, I have chosen my research topic as things going wireless in the future (this isn't the chosen name of course.. This paper is gonna be my baby and I'll name my baby after it's born).. 

Please help me with some genuine sources of information where i can read about the all the positive aspects of having ubiquitous wirless internet. Like there won't be any cables, ports required..? The implementation costs would fall drastically and things like that,.. 

basically, Please help me some links to deep dive into this subject..
billsblots 10/16/2014 | 4:57:04 PM
Re: Solar drones Don't forget to add in the extra bandwidth for the following that haunt us on every page on Light Reading! (thank you for the detection, Ghostery)

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Susan Fourtané 10/16/2014 | 8:44:16 AM
Solar drones Solar drones with the capacity to deliver high-speed mobile connectivity sounds like a good idea. :)

These will be useful drones and one more example of how solar energy will power the world in the future. 

jabailo 10/16/2014 | 12:05:12 AM
Re: These ain't delivery drones! Possible nightmares for small children yes.

But fuel consumption in idle mode...nearly zero and much less than airborne drones!

And if you want to talk full-on Sci-Fy -- they could get fuel by drawing sap off the tree (sugar converted to hydrogen converted to electricity with fuel cell)

DanJones 10/15/2014 | 10:54:45 PM
Re: These ain't delivery drones! Drones that can climb trees sound vaguely terrifying.
jabailo 10/15/2014 | 10:00:37 PM
Re: These ain't delivery drones! Regardless if you're talking about Network Node Drones or Pizza Delivery Drones, why is there such a focus on air and not ground?   The implications of the Google Car are -- robot vehicles which can be incredibly small because they dont' require a human to steer.  And even if you are speaking about networking drones, maybe you could just park trucks where you need them (or tiny "rovers") with really long antenna! (For that matter, why not ones that can climb trees...)

DanJones 10/15/2014 | 9:36:48 AM
These ain't delivery drones! These are not the delivery drones everyone was in a flap about recently. You'd know it if one of these drops a pizza on your head!
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