Facebook’s incredible high-flying drones may cruise at 60-90,000 feet

24 Sep 2014

In its bid to bring the internet to everyone on the planet Facebook is looking at sending up solar-powered flying drones that will cruise at between 60,000 to 90,000 to avoid airspace.

Facebook is planning to launch a fleet of solar-powered drones that will connect billions of people on earth with the internet.

Its rival Google also harbours similar ambitions involving balloons and has agreed to acquire Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones.

Facebook has also recently purchased aerospace start-up Ascenta and its five-person team, which has previously worked with some of the world’s largest aerospace companies, such as Boeing and Honeywell.

According to Wired Facebook faces a number of challenges to make its drone-filled skies a reality.

For example the drones will have to fly above weather and above commercial airspace.

This poses a problem because there are no rules for aircraft that fly above 60,000 feet in the air.

Connecting the planet

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is championing the Internet.org movement to raise economic fortunes across the earth by making the internet available to everyone. 

The project intends to connect the entire world to the internet through various means that could bring the web to some of the most remote places on the planet.

Another challenge, as explained by the engineering director of Facebook’s new Connectivity Lab Yael Maguire, is FAA regulations that there must be one human operator to every drone.

Knowing Google and Facebook automation is king and we’re sure their finest minds would be intent on filling the skies with robots who would function very similarly to the satellites orbiting earth, probably flying in a pre-arranged grid pattern.

“We need a regulatory environment that will be open to one pilot perhaps managing 10 or 100 drones. We have to figure these things out,” Maguire pointed out.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years