Facebook tests laser drones in UK skies

Drones provide internet access to rural areas

Tags: Facebook IncorporationUnited Kingdom
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Facebook tests laser drones in UK skies Zuckerberg: "We've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky."
By  Helen Gaskell Published  March 29, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook has been testing large, solar-powered drones over the UK.

The drones use lasers to beam internet access down to the ground, designed to provide connections to rural and internet-free zones.

"As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky," said Zuckerberg in a blog post. "We've successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK."

Developed by Ascenta, a Somerset-based designer of solar-powered drones bought by Facebook in March 2014, the drones will be able to fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet for months at a time on solar power. They will have wingspans greater than 29m, or that of a Boeing 737, but weigh less than a car.

"Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure," said Zuckerberg.

The drones form part of Facebook's internet.org initiative that aims to connect the next billion people to the internet, creating new markets for the social network which already connects 1.39 billion monthly active users.

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