Do You See Drones Connecting the World?


(Photo by Stuart Ramson)

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Yesenia Lugo is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. View her blog here.

Facebook Connectivity Lab engineering director Yael Maguire spoke about the network’s initiative to implement drones (the good ones) to help connect developing regions to the Internet. Essentially, the goal is to build and launch a fleet of solar-powered drones that can connect the billions of people to the internet.

We’re going to have to push the edge of solar technology, battery technology, composite technology.” – Maguire

And if you would rather call drones as planes, then you are not alone as Maguire also prefers to use the term when describing the unmanned aircraft.

In order to fly the planes for months or years at a time in order to provide consistent connectivity to the internet, the planes will have to fly “above weather, above all airspace,” which is anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 feet in the air. Maguire goes on that this reason puts the planes in tricky regulatory footing, since there are essentially no regulations on aircraft that fly above 60,000 feet in the air. “All the rules exist for satellites, and we’re invested in those. They play a very useful role, but we also have to help pave new ground,” he explained.

What I thought most interesting, was when Maguire informed us that the drones will be about the size of 747 commercial airplanes, yet much lighter, adding that one of the models being worked on by the Connectivity Lab is the length of “about six or seven Priuses, but is the weight of four of the tires of a Prius.”

Excitedly enough, Maguire informed us the team hopes to test one of its drones in a yet-to-be-determined United States location in the year 2015. He predicts the time frame for Internet access being provided by planes in about three to five years.

There are a lot of negative connotations associated with drones. Imagine an era, where drones are not just killing machines but can save lives and offer free basic services to those in need. This is a noble cause but I predict that the planes will require countless adjustments before being fully operational. Optimistically speaking, I look forward to seeing the live-action footage of the planes in the future. With big risks come even bigger rewards. Yes, I see this working and easily connecting billions of people.

Similar topic, but for animal lovers: How to Stop the World’s Poachers with Drones 

Are you in agreement with this vision, some reservations or have different recommendations about going in a another direction? I’d love to hear about it!

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