Is it a bird? Is it…. OK, enough of that. It's Aquila, the giant unmanned high-altitude Facebook drone designed to help provide Internet access to remote areas that has, according to the social media giant, just taken its first major test flight.
As a reminder, this is an aircraft that, according to Zuckerberg's crew, will be able to fly for up to three months at a time (solar-powered) and provide connectivity from more than 60,000 feet using millimeter wave (mmWave) and laser technology. It's actually quite mind-boggling.
Why should we care? Well, whether people like it or not, the whole world is becoming a digital society that, in one way or another, is going to be connected to networks and for many that will open up many new opportunities that will affect their lives and prospects. But more than half of the world's 7.4 billion inhabitants are not connected to the Internet. Bridging the digital divide is important -- everyone should at least have the chance to benefit from the information and communications capabilities that networks have to offer, if they choose to.
Should bridging that divide be the responsibility of global megacorps such as Facebook and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)? Well, they're investing in these programs and in technology because either a) others aren't b) others are doing it too slowly, or c) others are doing it in a way that doesn't meet their aspirations/goals. They are filling what they see as a void and it's hard to imagine they are going to announce the suspension of programs such as Internet.org anytime soon.
For more on such remote connectivity initiatives, see:
- Facebook Debuts Terragraph & ARIES to Extend Wireless
- Facebook Lauds Terragraph Cost Savings
- Google's 5G Radio Ambitions Are Expanding
- Facebook Joins TM Forum in Connectivity Push
- Google's Internet Balloon Project Takes Flight
- The Trouble With Drones...
- Google Ready to Release Thousands of Loons
- Commercial Drone Interest & Development Skyrockets, Heavy Reading Reports
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading