In another one of Mark Zuckerberg’s advances toward world dominance, Facebook is currently working on developing drones to “beam internet to people from the sky.” Although this news broke a while back, I’m just learning of more details about it and it continues to intrigue me. In August of 2013, Facebook teamed up with 6 mobile phone companies to launch Internet.org. The purpose of this initiative is to provide affordable Internet connection to people across the globe. In March of this year, they created the Connectivity Lab, which focuses on using drones to provide this Internet access.
The drones are expected to be roughly the size of a 747 but weigh significantly less. Flying at altitudes of about 60,000-90,000 feet, they are intended to cruise above weather to enable longer and smoother flights. Facebook hopes to keep these aircrafts flying for months to even years at a time while sustaining themselves with solar power.
In the video below, Zuckerberg describes the changing nature of the global economy from resource-based to knowledge-based. In the former instance, resources were finite and could not be shared. In a knowledge-based environment, however, there’s no limit to how much knowledge and information can be shared, and Zuckerberg claims Internet is the “back bone” of this new type of economy. Many benefits come to the global community as a whole through this type of project, as sharing knowledge and information can be extremely useful with regards to education and healthcare. However, this is certainly an investment for Facebook and the accompanying mobile phone companies, as they are the ones who will be directly profiting from an expansion in the mobile market.
Facebook will certainly face some issues moving forward with this project, as airplane pilots are already voicing concerns regarding drones interfering in their airspace and causing potential safety concerns. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as unmanned aircrafts become more prevalent. Another roadblock currently holding back Facebook’s plan involves current laws requiring one “pilot” on the ground controlling each drone in the sky. With the quantity of drones Zuckerberg hopes to deploy, staffing an employee for each drone would be very costly. To combat this, Facebook hopes to push for a change in legislation that allows one person to control up to 100 drones at a time.
Another potential setback comes from Facebook’s goals to use solar power to allow these drones to fly for such long durations. In order to achieve this as well as be able to transmit Wi-Fi signals from such a great altitude, many advances are necessary, as we don’t currently have the technology to support this.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Facebook plans to test out the flying ability of these drones by 2015 and hope to have them beaming Internet access by 2019. With all of the regulatory and technological hurdles they need to overcome to get to that point, there’s reason to be skeptical that they will achieve this in that time frame. Be it by drones or by increased infrastructure on the ground, global Internet access certainly seems to be in the not so distant future. As we ISYS6621 grads go our separate ways and find ourselves in all corners of the earth, there will soon be no excuse to not remain active on the #IS6621 twitter feed. And to avoid ending my final blog with a double negative, I shamelessly insert this final sentence.