Last year, Google began testing Internet-delivering balloons over New Zealand in support of the Internet.org initative, a program developed to deliver affordable Internet to parts of the world that don’t yet have it (yes, such places do exist). Not to be outdone, Facebook also decided to join the initiative and is now reportedly in talks to acquire Titan Aerospace, a company that makes drones that could offer the same service.
Titan Aerospace builds inexpensive solar-powered drones that can fly to near-orbital heights above the Earth’s surface. What makes their drones perfect for delivering Internet is that they can also stay in the air for up to five continuous years. Facebook’s plan is to get 11,000 of these drones built and launch them above areas that don’t have Internet connectivity. These drones would deliver Internet by using radio repeaters that would transfer signals to a base station receiver.
The drones, each equipped with its own battery pack, would launch at night and then begin collecting solar power, giving them energy for flying higher — over 12 miles above sea level. That power would also feed communications systems, which would send Internet to the region below it — perfect for regions with no access. Facebook's drone-emitting Internet probably won't have blazing fast speeds, as the signals would be weak, but something is definitely better than nothing.
For Facebook, the benefits are two-fold. First, the company gets to do something good for remote and poorer parts of the world, improving its social status and public profile. Mostly, though, the idea is probably more about getting Internet-starved people hooked on Facebook’s services.