Theverge | Fb explored utilizing a fleet of tiny, bird-sized drones to spice up cell web speeds
Fb has for years explored methods to assist enhance cell connectivity and produce extra of the inhabitants in developed international locations get on-line, ostensibly a humanitarian effort however extra of a thinly veiled ploy to deliver extra folks into its app ecosystem. That effort’s most seen tasks have been Fb’s Web.org initiative, with its Free Fundamentals and Categorical Wi-Fi choices for fast-growing smartphone markets, and the discontinued Aquila challenge, which sought to fly giant, solar-powered drones that might beam down web very similar to Alphabet’s high-flying Loon helium balloons.
However Fb was engaged on one other methodology in secret that concerned a lot smaller, bird-sized fixed-wing plane that may very well be used to spice up smartphone knowledge speeds, in line with a report at the moment from Enterprise Insider. The challenge, codenamed “Catalina” after an island off the Southern California coast notable for as soon as utilizing a service pigeon community, was discontinued a few yr in the past, a Fb spokesperson confirmed to BI. However its existence illustrates that Fb was connectivity by way of a wide range of lenses.
BI reviews that the drones could be nearer to the scale of a sparrow, making them nearly pocket-sized. The aim wouldn’t be to beam down a functioning web connection to fully distant areas, however as a substitute to reinforce present, 2G-level connections to permit smartphone customers to stream video and carry out different extra data-intensive duties. It isn’t clear how precisely that may have labored. The report describes the drones as designed to hold “high-density stable state drives… that might then be used to ferry knowledge,” so maybe the drones would act as a mesh community of types between a grounded connection and a person’s smartphone to facilitate high-bandwidth knowledge transfers.
Regardless, plainly Fb moved away from that concept simply because it deserted the Aquila idea. The corporate is not completely out of the connectivity recreation, although. It nonetheless has Web.org, regardless of the setbacks that group has confronted in India. And when the Aquila information broke in June 2018, Fb stated it was nonetheless working with Airbus to develop higher variations of what are often called high-altitude platform stations, or HAPS, that may be constructed into plane for the aim of beaming down high-speed web from low Earth orbit. On the time, the corporate additionally stated it was “actively collaborating in quite a lot of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees within the US and internationally.”