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Will Solar Power Facebook Drones Soon ‘Invade’ the Developing World?

Facebook has plans to invest in drones. According to a deal first reported by TechCrunch and CNBC, Facebook has announced its intentions to purchase solar drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million.

Sarah Perez and Josh Constine of Tech Crunch explained that “Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa. The company would start by building 11,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically the “Solara 60″ model.”

The drones, which can operate for up to five years on solar power without needing to ever land, could replace costly orbital satellites and provide internet coverage (and Facebook) to even the remotest areas of world. Maintaining well above 60,000 feet, something the tech company calls “atmospheric parking,” the drones would also not interfere with flight paths of commercial flights and require far less operating costs than traditional communication satellites.

The drones could also potentially  triple the number of Facebook users worldwide. Currently,  two-thirds of the world  has no access to telecommunications, a “human right” Facebook founder Zuckerberg has vowed to bring to the whole world through low-cost technology.

Partnering with six cell phone giants, last year  Zuckerberg announced a plan to bring universal access to cellular and internet service through Internet.org.

“There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy,” Mark Zuckerberg said. “Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.” 

While the drone deal has not yet been completed, the drone project would also be in direct competition with another tech-giants plans to conquer the unconnected world through technology.

Like the still speculative Facebook drone project, Google’s Project Loon plans to use balloons “to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Titan Aeropace

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.