Facebook wants to use solar drones to bring internet access to the world

Titan solar drone
© Titan

Facebook is reportedly looking to acquire Titan Aerospace, the company that makes the Solara solar-powered unmanned plane that can fly at an altitude of about 12.5 miles for five years (yes, years) at a time. The tech giant is interested in using the drones to bring internet to the parts of the world with little or no internet access.

When Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last Monday, he said, "In the US we have 911 to get basic services. Similarly, we want to create a basic dial tone for the Internet. Basic messaging, basic Web information, basic social networking.”

© Titan Aerospace

Facebook is seeking to acquire Titan at a cost of about $60 million, after which, the company plans to construct 11,000 of the Solara 60 model planes. The Solara has a wingspan of 60 feet and is covered in 3,000 solar cells on the upper wing and tail surfaces. Those cells can generate about 7 kilowatts of power during the day. What the plane doesn't use immediately is stored in lithium-ion batteries that provide power through the night. That cycle can continue for up to five years without the plane ever needing to land.

That length of flight equals about a 2.8 million mile range while cruising at 65 mph. The Solara has been mentioned as a possible tool for crop monitoring and other surveillance appellations, but if Facebook is able to purchase the company, the drone will be used exclusively for the Internet.org project that seeks to provide internet access to the two-thirds of the world currently without it.

Tags: Computing | Facebook | Solar Power | Solar Technology | Technology

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