Facebook’s Solar Airplane WiFi!

Facebook WiFi PlanesI know, right?!? Hooray for ubiquitous WiFi! And, solar-powered planes… geek out alert!

Facebook’s solar-powered planes will provide Wi-Fi to the ‘burbs

Ars Technica – By: Casey Johnston – “Facebook revealed a new research lab on Thursday that will develop “aerospace and communication technologies” to bring Internet access to areas that have not yet been networked. One of the Connectivity Lab’s projects includes a plane that can remain in the air for months at a time, broadcasting Wi-Fi to regions below.

The plane technology comes from Ascenta, a UK company that specializes in high-altitude long-range aircraft. On Thursday, Facebook announced its acquisition of the company for $20 million. The planes would be solar-powered and would fly over suburban areas at an altitude of 20 kilometers, above where commercial airlines fly.

For more remote areas, like mountain ranges, Facebook and Connectivity Labs hope to put up satellites that not only cover the area with network access but talk between each other via free-space optical communication using infrared laser beams.

The project bears some similarity to Google’s Project Loon, which uses untethered balloons flying in the stratosphere to broadcast Internet connections. The balloons create a mesh network at the same altitude that Facebook’s solar planes would occupy and provide 3G speeds. Project Loon is still in the experimental stages, but the company anticipates that it could be deployed for use in military communications or in disaster areas.”

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