Facebook and Google are two of the largest tech companies in the world. They are so ubiquitous that they don’t really need to focus as much on competing with their peers as on expanding internet access to gain new users. Google is working on Project Loon, a project to bring Internet access to remote areas through giant balloons floating at around 20 miles altitude in the stratosphere. It’s like Walmart would build a road to your house in the mountains, knowing that when you are going to use it, there’s a 90 percent chance to visit their nearby location.
The Social Good Summit took place on September 21-22 in New York and gathered a number of tech leaders and activists concerned about how technological advances can be used to support good causes.
During the event, Mashable describes, Yael Maguire, Facebook’s engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, talked about the company’s plans to provide Internet access to remote areas. Maguire prefers calling the flying routers planes instead of drones, as the latter term ended up having a negative connotation.
The social media giant will work together with Internet.org to get the last 15 percent of the unconnected world population online.
The main difficulty at the moment is how to design a plane that will fly above the weather – 60.000 to 90.000 feet up in the air – for months or even years at a time. The team will have to adapt solar power panels to the new task, as it may be the only viable solution. But operating machinery at such a high altitude implies other new challenges.
“We’re taking on a whole bunch of technical risk, but we’re also taking on whole bunch of regulatory risk, because there are no rules about flying planes outside of 60,000 feet and above. There are no rules about beaming signals down to people in those environments,” Maguire said. As a result, other employees are researching legislation to discover potential problems Facebook must address.
To operate these huge Internet beaming planes, Facebook will need to hire operators. But the problem is how to make the process more efficient by having one driver operating multiple planes at the same time.
If development goes according to plan, Facebook will launch a first test plane sometime in 2015. Access to Internet through the sci-fi planes may be available as early as three to five years from now.