Facebook, despite receiving severe backlash for its Internet.org initiative in many regions, continues to move forward aggressively on realising that project. While we had known that it’s planning to achieve this feat using airborne drones, a recent post from Zuckerberg has detailed possible use of Lasers as well.
The drones, which are being developed under the watchful eyes of veterans from places like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research center, have a wingspan equal to a 737 and can hover at 60,000 feet. One of these, can deliver internet to an area for several months continuously.
Part of the Facebook’s internet.org program, which aims at delivering internet to those who don’t have access to it at present, the initiative seeks to make the internet affordable and accessible so as to “connect the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have internet access.”
While most of the above mentioned part was known to us, a recent Zuckerberg post details how Facebook plans to achieve this by fixing drones with lasers which can then beam the data to a satellite, thus enabling instant transmission over long ranges. These drones can be deployed to hover over areas with little or no connectivity and use the free space optics to deliver better connectivity using laser beams.
These drones do require line of sight though between both ends — which means that the internet will be quite dependent upon prevalent weather conditions. However, they can provide very high speeds and bandwidths — when the conditions are right.
Facebook wrote “the lasers used in FSO systems provide extremely high bandwidths and capacity, on par with terrestrial fiber optic networks,” but also noted the lasers need to be synced and aligned with clinincal precision and “require line of sight between both ends of the laser link, meaning that they don’t work through clouds and are very vulnerable to bad weather conditions.”
From what we have seen on internet.org, the initiative aims mainly to help those who do not have internet access as of now, be it due to economic or geographical factors. If succesful, the drones will have the potential to open a whole new world of opportunities and discoveries to almost 4 billion people on this planet — which is certainly very awesome. But Facebook does need to keep in mind the protests over net neutrality, which have been gaining momentum in some of Internet.org’s biggest target markets, most notably India.
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