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Facebook offers more details on its internet-beaming planes

Billy Steele
September 24, 2014
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We've known about Facebook's ambitious plans to bring internet to developing areas via drone for a while now. At the Social Good Summit this week, Facebook Connectivity Lab's Yael Maguire revealed more details about what the social network is hoping to accomplish. Speaking with Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, Maguire said that the UAVs would need to be able to fly for months, or even years, at an altitude "above the weather, above all airspace." For those counting, that's around 60,000 to 90,000 feet. Luckily for Facebook and the Internet.org initiative, it has already looked into solar-powered options that can make trips lasting up to five years. Maguire went on to say that a regular-sized drone won't suffice, so the "planes" will have to be "roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747." As you might expect, the effort is certain to face regulatory hurdles, including how many of the vehicles a single pilot can oversee. Eventually, the goal is to have one person steering "up to 100" of the internet-carrying planes at a time. "We can't have one person per plane if we want to figure out how to connect the world," Maguire explained. For now, there's a three to five year window for employing the UAVs, and the lab hopes to see the first one take flight for testing next year.

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