Facebook and Internet.org on Thursday announced the Connectivity Lab, a team that will work on connecting more people to the Internet by using some new technologies including unmanned solar-powered drones, low-orbit satellites and a laser-based technology to connect the elements of the system in order to accomplish its goals.
The company will use a new technology called free-space optics (FSO) to connect low-orbit satellites with one another to deliver Internet connections in remote areas where regular Internet deployment is otherwise difficult. These laser-based technology has apparently been designed to offer fiber optics-like data connections.
The drones would fly well above commercial airspace at 20 kilometers above Earth (or about 65,000 feet) relying on solar power during the day and on internal batteries at night to stay up in the air for longer periods of time. From there the drones would beam down Internet signals at all times as they roam above roughly the same suburban region. In lower density areas, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites will beam down Internet to the ground.
Earlier this year, Facebook was rumored to have acquired Titan Aerospace, creators of solar drones capable of continuously flying above earth, in order to use the devices for its Internet.org project. However, Internet.org did not mention Titan Aerospace when announcing the companies it’s working with on this FSO drone/satellite project.
Instead, the organization said that it added “some of the world’s top experts on aerospace technology,” including a five-member team from Ascenta that has combined more than 100 years of experience in the aerospace industry, and former employees from organizations including NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Ames Research Center and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
Internet.org combines the efforts of Facebook, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and others to bring Internet to other regions of the world that lack Internet access. A video explaining the technologies mentioned above follows below.