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Facebook’s Solar-Powered Internet Plane Looks Like a Stealth Bomber

Facebook’s plans to become a flying internet service provider for the developing world are coming to fruition. The company today introduced Aquila, a high-flying, long-endurance plane that will bring basic internet access to the developing world. A working model of the plane is now ready for testing, Facebook said.

Facebook’s shallow, V-shaped plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 737. But even fully loaded down with communications gear, Aquila only weighs between 880 to 1,000 lbs — about a third the weight of a Prius. “When deployed, it will be able to circle a remote region for up to 90 days, beaming connectivity down to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 [feet],” the company said in a blog post. This means the planes will be flying at an altitude above commercial aircraft, and even above the weather.

This is how it will work: Facebook will have lasers on the ground that can locate the dome-shaped optical head, located on the bottom of the plane, in the air — basically shooting a laser at a dime-sized target that is more than 10 miles away. The plane will first hone in on the general location of the laser on the ground, proceeding to target it further and lock onto the location so that it can start beaming down the internet. Because the plane requires a connection with the lasers on the ground though, you might experience a slower connection when it’s raining or cloudy.

 

To learn more about this work and the people behind the Connectivity Lab, watch the video below.

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