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Facebook Developing Laser Drones To Bring Internet To 5 Billion People

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No, this is not an idea for a sci-fi film. Facebook is developing a fleet of solar-powered drones that will fly around beaming Internet down to users below through lasers.

The project is codenamed Aquila, and the drones weigh less than a small car and have a wingspan of a Boeing 767.

"We want to serve every person in the world," said head of Facebook's Connectivity Lab Yael Maguire. "Can we reach a point where everyone on the planet gets the same message at once? I'm looking forward to that day."

Facebook says that the goal of this project is to launch over 1,000 of the drones, which are capable of beaming high-speed Internet from between 60,000 to 90,000 feet using special lasers. The Internet will be offered to users in some of the world's most remote places, essentially meaning that those who don't otherwise have Internet access will be able to get connected.

The project seems to be further along than some might assume. Facebook says that it has already conducted test flights of the aircraft in the UK. The aircraft is extremely light, and it needs to be because of the fact that the goal is that it will stay in the air for a total of 3 months powered by solar power. Not only will the drones beam Internet down to those below, but the drones will also need to communicate with other drones in order to cover a wider area.

Facebook is not the only company trying to connect the parts of the world that don't otherwise have Internet access. Google is also focusing on "Project Loon" which uses modified weather balloons to float around and beam Internet to those below.

In fact, a jokester at Facebook's F8 developer conference today renamed one of the Wi-Fi networks "Google Loon #524." While it is assumed that it was a joke, it's likely that Google isn't feeling too friendly with Facebook on the heels of this announcement.

Of course, it might seem like Google and Facebook are doing this to simply be nice, but it's important to remember that the more people who use the Internet, the more money the likes of Facebook and Google will make. This is because both companies make money from advertising.

The drones are expected to undergo further testing later this year, and there is no word yet as to when the drones will officially launch.

Photo: Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

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