Social media giant Facebook unveiled ‘Aquila’, a solar-powered internet drone, in August 2015. However on Wednesday Facebook announced that it has abandoned this project, which was planned to deliver internet in remote areas through solar-powered drones ‘Aquila’ aircraft also called as a high altitude platform station (HAPS) system.
Facebook held “technical and geographical limitations” responsible for its decision to permanently shutdown its dream of building a gigantic, solar-powered plane to blast internet to underserved communities via laser.
In a news post on the company’s coding sub-site, Facebook’s Yael Maguire announced that “we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgewater.”
“Of course, HAPS connectivity requires more than just an aircraft. We’ve made important progress on some of the other key parts of the system — including setting new records using millimeter-wave (MMW) technology in air-to-ground and point-to-point communication”, added Maguire.
Closing the Aquila facility comes with the loss of 16 jobs specific to the development and maintenance of the aircraft, the company confirmed to TechCrunch.
Facebook however confirmed that although the company has decided to shutdown Aquila, it will continue to support entrepreneurs in programs like Express Wi-Fi — all to help connect the 4 billion people who still do not have access to the Internet.
The Express Wi-Fi project is actually an integral part of Facebook’s much talked about Internet.org mission. Through this mission, the Mark Zuckerberg led company aims to bring internet connectivity across the whole wide world, especially in the rural pockets.
In order to make the Express Wifi project a success in India, Facebook is making use of the old cable operator model. Till 2016, Facebook has implemented the model in over a 100 rural villages all across India.
Notably, in 2016 an ET report which quoted Robert Pepper, Facebook’s connectivity public policy director, divulged the fact that the California-based giant was in talks with a number of Indian telcos for the trials of its Aquila drones but then eventually in November 2016, Facebook decided not to bring its unmanned solar-powered drone to the Indian subcontinent.
Moreover, in September 2016, it was unveiled that a team of talented engineers at Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Connectivity Lab have had successfully developed a new optical technology that helps laser beams to deliver fast Internet access to remote areas all around the globe. The company was working on this for last half a year.