Facebook abandons plan to develop high-flying internet-beaming drones

Doris Richards
June 28, 2018

The social media giant has announced it will be halting Project Aquila, which looked to get the four billion people without internet access online.

Maguire notes that there weren't too many companies working on HAPS drones focused on spreading internet access when the Aquila project first began in 2014.

In typical Facebook fashion, director of engineering Yael Maguire dropped the news as part of a very cheery-sounding blog post that lauded the company's work-and that of others-in developing systems to bring Internet connectivity to developing nations. Suffice to say that Project Aquila has now been grounded, although the idea isn't completely dead.

The Aquila program was part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's goal to "connect the whole world". But Facebook has now shut down its internal effort to build high-altitude solar-powered drones to provide a backbone for Internet connectivity in areas lacking wired infrastructure.

According to Facebook, HAPS connectivity requires more than just an aircraft.

Facebook wanted to do this by flying drones over remote areas now lacking in internet infrastructure.

Facebook said there are now other companies in aerospace that are investing in the same kind of technology.

Project Aquila itself had already experienced some public setbacks before the decision to close down building was made, when the first of two high-profile test flights of a prototype drone in 2016 resulted in serious damage to an aircraft wing upon landing. On the policy front, we'll be working on a proposal for 2019 World Radio Conference to get more spectrum for HAPS, and we'll be actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the U.S. and internationally. The former, a philanthropic mission to bring internet access to the "next billion", now cut off from the web, saw its role at the company diminished when Free Basics, the Facebook-branded service that actually provided free internet to millions, was spun off and renamed in 2015.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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