FACEBOOK IS TAKING AIM at people in remote areas with poor internet availability by piloting the use of wide-winged solar-powered drones.
The first flights of the Aquila drones were announced by CTO Mike Schroepfer at the firm's developer conference, and discussed by Facebook top-boy Mark Zuckerberg.
The test flights are part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative (PDF) to deliver basic internet services to hard-to-reach areas.
"As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world we've designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky," wrote Zuckerberg on something called a Timeline.
"Today, I'm excited to share that we've successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK."
Zuckerberg said that this will be no small drone. In fact it sounds huge. "The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car," he said.
The wings make plenty of room for solar panels, and Zuckerberg explained that these will keep Aquila up and at it for a good long time.
"It will be powered by solar panels on its wings and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000ft for months at a time," he said.
"Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure."
Zuckerberg and Schroepfer, who delivered the technical keynote at the conference, spoke about the efforts that the firm is making to make the world more connected.
These include Oculus, the face-hugging augmented reality system, and a machine with enough artificial intelligence nous to answer questions about The Lord of the Rings.
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"We have a chance to connect everyone in the world. Facebook can build systems that are more human, more personalised and more intelligent than anything that has come before," said Facebook in summary mode.
"The technologies that were discussed today will help build tools and services that better serve people and move the world forward."
Facebook-backed Internet.org said that there is great potential in the unconnected, suggesting that increasing internet access could create 140 million jobs, take 160 million people out of poverty, and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.
Currently, the firm added, only a third of the global population could join Facebook has access to the internet. µ
More like a portal into your privacy
It'll likely be available to download from 6pm
High wrist gamble
To be this good took ages, but was it worth the wait?