As Facebook quits low-orbit internet, other companies continue their efforts

End of Project Aquila doesn’t mean remote areas won’t get internet access.

In June Facebook announced it was killing off Project Aquila, its idea to bring internet connectivity to the masses via massive solar-powered drones. But the social network is far from the only company investing and developing in such technology.

A whole host of companies – from well-funded startups to billion-dollar conglomerates – are spending big in technology that can provide internet coverage to areas currently lacking any real sort of telecoms coverage.


Bye bye Project Aquila

The plan – alongside the likes of Facebook Basics, Facebook Zero, and Telecom Infra – was to provide internet access to the 3 billion people worldwide currently unconnected. The concept was to have a network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provide internet coverage to remote areas by pinging communication signals from a base station via a mesh network, thus providing coverage to areas where traditional telecoms infrastructure isn’t viable or cost-effective.

Initially launched in 2014, Aquila’s first flight -- and first crash – were on the same day in 2016. Although there was single successful flights in 2017 and the company managed to achieve 40 Gbps connectivity over a distance of 7km away using millimeter-wave (MMW) technology,  the announcement of a partnership with Airbus later in the year was the beginning of the end for the project.

In June Facebook announced that it was shutting down its Aquila project and would instead leave development to the aerospace giants.

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