Facebook Friends Carbon Fiber, Creates Unmanned Aircraft to Connect the World

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Aquila Wide View

If you’re already Facebook friends with the king of the internet himself, Mark Zuckerberg, then you’re well aware that his idea of social media has grown well beyond likes, pokes, comments and shares. His latest endeavor, Internet.org, hopes to connect the world by bringing affordable internet access to more than 4 billion people in lesser developed countries. Phase one of the project? Constructing a very large, unmanned, carbon fiber-framed, laser-shooting drone, of course.

Sharing its namesake with a thunderbolt-toting mythological eagle owned by Zeus, Aquila, created by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab and designed by an aerospace team in the U.K., carries a wingspan greater than that of a Boeing 737 while still weighing less than a Facebook company car, with much thanks paid to our all-time favorite composite.

Carbon Fiber Applied

Zuckerberg with Propeller

“Building Aquila meant solving a lot of engineering challenges,” Zuckerberg explains in a post via Facebook. “We needed to make it extremely light and efficient. So we built the airframe from carbon fiber, which is stronger than steel but very light.”

Weight is very important here because, in order to beam in the internet from above, Aquila is meant to fly some 60,000 to 90,000 feet in the air — above the weather, in the stratosphere — circling a specific area for 90 days without ever coming down.

The drone’s energy efficient, carbon fiber propellers and solar panels will undoubtedly help, but, seeing as how it’ll be flying at altitudes twice as high as that of most passenger planes and lasering down Gigabits of info with untested technology to base stations with dime-sized precision…well, let’s just say, if it’s at all possible, its Greek-based moniker will be well deserved.

Auila diagram

“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,”

Zuckerberg says.

It’s a lofty goal, worthy of about 4 billion likes. Let’s just hope that all those lasers don’t go driving all the third world cats crazy, else Facebook might have to construct a carbon fiber fence to keep them all away.


For more information on Aquila, you can follow some guy named Mark on that one site with Face in the name.

[Sources: WIRED, Facebook ]

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