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

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

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.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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