Called Aquila, the unmanned aircraft is part of Facebook's long-term project aimed at helping those that live far away from cell towers or fiberoptic lines. Since the company launched Internet.org, it has been focusing on making sure that the 4 billion people in the world who don't have access to the web are connected.
"This effort is important because 10% of the world's population lives in areas without existing Internet infrastructure," Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said. "To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies."
The company's Connectivity Lab worked with its Internet.org, spending about 14 months to build the aircraft. Powered by the sun, the giant v-shaped plane is made of light carbon fiber and has the wingspan of a Boeing (BA) - Get Report 737, according to the social media giant. It weighs less than a car and can fly for three months at a time, from anywhere between 60,000 feet and 90,000 feet up, which is far above commercial airspace. During the day, the drone will fly to its maximum height, and at night it will glide down to save power.
The drone works by shooting laser beams, or Internet signals, to stations on the ground. Facebook also said that it tested out a new laser system that can send data at 10 gigabytes per second. With this, hundreds of thousands of people can access the Internet at the same time, the company said.
Facebook plans to spend the second half of this year testing the one aircraft it built. The company said it doesn't know when the technology can be used in the field, but it's one step closer to building an Internet network in the sky.