Facebook Builds Aircraft That Beams Internet Data At 10GB/s With Frickin’ Laser Beams

Facebook is on a mission to bring Internet connectivity to remote regions of the world as part of its Internet.org initiative. There are different ways to do that, though one of the more technological interesting ones is the creation of a full scale aircraft armed with a laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second.

Not only is that ten times faster than any previous system, it's also highly accurate -- it can connect with a point the size of a dime from over 10 miles away. That's important, because the aircraft, called Aquila, would be flying above conventional air traffic for up to three months at a time.


"This effort is important because 10 percent of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies," Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said.

"Using aircraft to connect communities using lasers might seem like science fiction. But science fiction is often just science before its time. Over the coming months, we will test these systems in the real world and continue refining them so we can turn their promise into reality," Zuckerberg added.

Aquila's Wings

Aquila is an unmanned aerial vehicle with the wingspan greater than a commercial aircraft (roughly equivalent to a Boeing 737) but weighing less than a car thanks to its carbon-fiber frame. The top of the wings are outfitted with solar panels.

Facebook's aerospace team in the U.K. gets credit for building a full-scale version of Aquila. When deployed, the solar-powered aircraft will be able to circle a remote region for up to 90 days, beaming connectivity to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet.