Facebook, Moving Ahead with Drone, Plans Test This Summer.
Facebook plans to test a version of its solar-powered drone this summer, a step in its efforts to beam Internet access to billions of people without it today, executives said on Thursday.
Earlier this month, Facebook tested a smaller drone, about one-tenth the size of its planned solar-powered models. The full-size version will have the wingspan of a Boeing737 but only weigh as much as a small car.
The drone — dubbed Aquila — is one aspect of Facebook’s Internet.org plan to extend Web access to what it estimates are 1.1 billion to 2.8 billion people without it today.
Facebook and rival Google are experimenting with multiple technologies to reach people unlikely to be served by traditional landlines or cellular networks. In addition to drones, Facebook is evaluating satellite and other technologies. Google has its own drone program, is working on high-altitude balloons and has had a program to deliver Internet access from orbiting satellites.
Facebook executives said the company is unlikely to get drones aloft and beaming Internet access any time soon. They cited the need to vet the drone’s safety and communication features as well as form partnerships with carriers.
“We are working towards a real test flight this summer sometime,” vice president of engineering Jay Parikh said in an interview on the sidelines of Facebook’s annual developer conference.
“Depending on how this test flight goes, we’ll see what happens,” he added. “This is a big plane, this is a big project and it’s never been done before.”
Among other challenges, Parikh said the solar and battery technology needed to power the Aquila drone have only recently been developed. What was available even a year ago “wasn’t good enough for what we’re trying to do with this plane,” he said.
Facebook also is working with mobile carriers to extend Internet access. Parikh said Facebook is unlikely to directly offer service that competes with carriers.
“Right now it really goes against our core mission,” Parikh said. “I think it would take a lot longer if we were going to do it all by ourselves. It would take a lot of money and I don’t think it’s sustainable long-term.”
Some seven million people in seven countries have started using basic Internet services, including Facebook, around the world through the Internet.org initiative. Parikh declined to describe what Facebook has learned from their activity.
By- Deepa Seetharaman and Shira Ovide
Giving thumbs up to Modi government’s focus on developing smart cities, Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities & Climate Change on Monday said, “From my experience, he (PM Modi) is absolutely correct to make cities a central focus of his work.”
“The more India invests in sustainable cities, the stronger its economy will grow,” Bloomberg said. Giving a special address at RE-INVEST 2015, Bloomberg said, “Prime Minister Modi is showing that confronting climate change goes hand-in-hand with smart economic growth.”
Bloomberg urged both India’s private sector and foreign investors to continue developing and investing in the clean energy market which create “knowledge-intensive jobs and support the nation’s goals”.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal assured that the government will make sure that the investments in India will be protected and encouraged. He said for a new investment destination the prerequisite is an atmosphere which makes to do business easier, consistency in policies, bankable contracts and prevalence of rule of law in the country.
Goyal sought to assure investors that though the government is pro-poor, it understands the problems of business and will act as a facilitator.