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Facebook aims to connect the world with 'drones, satellites and lasers'

Nicole Lee, @nicole
March 27, 2014
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Following the hubbub of its recent acquisition of virtual reality firm Oculus VR, Facebook has just announced something slightly more altruistic: a team dedicated to bringing basic internet access to everyone in the world. Simply dubbed the Connectivity Lab, the crew is a result of Internet.org, a global initiative Mark Zuckerberg introduced back in August of last year. In collaboration with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Samsung and Qualcomm, Internet.org has reportedly already helped three million new people in Philippines and Paraguay get online. But a lot remains to be done, which is where Facebook's Connectivity Lab comes in. Its goal? To develop new connectivity platforms for internet delivery, which apparently includes "drones, satellites and lasers," according to a statement from Zuckerberg.

To that end, the Lab is staffed with some of the best minds in aeronautics and communications technology from institutions such as NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today, Ascenta, which is perhaps most well-known for its deployment of the Zephyr solar-powered UAV, has also joined the team. The idea behind this ambitious approach is that different population densities would require different methods of internet delivery. More restricted areas, for example, might be best served by a long endurance aircraft similar to the Zephyr, while satellites might be best elsewhere. Additionally, the team wants to use free-space optical communications (FSO), which essentially lets these drones and satellites transmit data by sending invisible laser beams. It all seems incredibly complicated, which is why Facebook has released a video (see below) to explain the whole thing.

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