The social network revealed last spring it planned to bring internet connectivity to 5 billion people through the Internet.org initiative. It even created a team called the Connectivity Lab, with the goal of creating new platforms - such as drones and satellites - for connectivity. Facebook said it wanted to deliver internet to areas through several different ways, depending on the type of region. It now appears one method will involve a plane-sized drone that can fly for years at a time.
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Yael Maguire, the engineering director at Facebook's Connectivity Lab, admitted during an interview at Mashable's Social Good Summit on Monday that Facebook has drones in the works that are actually unmanned jet plans that could fly for months or even years at a time, above the weather and all airspace. He described the drones as "roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747" and even compared one drone design to the length of "six or seven [Toyota] Priuses".
Despite such large sizes, Maguire promised that Facebook's internet drones won't weigh much. The drone that is currently the length of seven Toyota Priuses, for instance, apparently weighs as much as four car tires. You can expect Facebook to start testing its internet drones in the US next year, according to Maguire, with further testing possibly being held in India and 21 other countries throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Facebook will obviously need to comply with airspace and aircraft restrictions in each country, including the US. The social network won't be the only technology company facing such hurdles though, as Google is also developing internet drones in the form of wireless balloons via Project Loon. Amazon is also testing drone aircrafts, though for delivery purposes rather than supplying wireless web access to areas without connectivity.
In a video posted by Facebook and Internet.org in March, Maguire explained how Facebook's drones and satellite systems would simplify the process of supplying a "high-quality" connection versus building out large towers, obtaining land rights and energy power, etc. Watch the video above for more information.