Facebook has bought a design company called Somerset in order to create a solar-powered drone program that will work in synchronicity with “geosynchronous satellites” designed to hover above us at 65,000 feet.

In an effort to bring Internet service to the two-thirds of the world without online access, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is planning on using his drone program to expand Internet.org, a venture created with the stated goal of making the Internet a globally available information resource. (This will also allow Facebook to significantly expand its user base, currently at 1.3 billion.)

Zuckerberg’s drone-powered scheme will also be in direct competition with Google’s Internet balloon program — called Project Loon, no less — which serves the same purpose. According to the BBC, Google released 30 balloons in New Zealand in June.

Meanwhile, Internet.org engineer Yael Maguire weighed in on The Guardian about how Facebook’s drone program works:

“In suburban environments we are looking at a new type of plane architecture that flies at 20,000 metres, at the point where the winds are the lowest. It’s above commercial airlines, it’s even above the weather. They circle around and broadcast internet down but significantly closer than a satellite.”

Invisible infrared laser beams, which can carry large amounts of information at high speeds across space using free-space optical communication technology (FSO), will connect the satellites to each other and to receivers on the surface of the Earth.

Comcast and cellphone providers such as AT&T might also join this space race, but at this point it looks as if the two online giants will battle it out with the help of their corporate-backed flying objects.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.


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