Facebook plans drones for Africa

facebookFacebook is in negotiations to buy a drone manufacturer with the aim of using high-altitude autonomous aircraft to beam internet connections to isolated communities in Africa.

The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, which aims to connect the large parts of the world that remain offline.

Only 2.7billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet, according to Facebook. Other project backers include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

TechCrunch reports that Facebook intends to buy the maker of advanced solar-powered drones that can remain in the air for up to five years at a time.

Titan Aerospace’s drones fly at up to 20000m, effectively operating as satellites, with far lower operating costs, which the company calls “atmospheric parking”. The Solara models can carry up to 100kg of equipment.

TechCrunch says Facebook plans 11000 drones for blanket internet coverage to places with patchy or nonexistent connections.

Neither Facebook nor Titan Aerospace would comment.

The project would be in direct competition with Google’s Project Loon, which envisages 30 balloons in the stratosphere using varying wind currents at different altitudes to remain in a geostationary position.

Source: Daily Telegraph