Facebook’s latest ambitions have reached the realm of classical mythology, creating project Aquila, also known as high-flying drones that carry internet access.
The autonomous vehicle, as large as a Boeing measured by the wings, but light as a small car, is the future for the tech giant in its plans of connecting the remaining five billion that currently don’t benefit from internet access.
Some might argue that solar-powered drones beaming down internet access is not really in the same area as the current interest of the company, which is mostly making money from selling ads. It seems Facebook’s business model would be more like what NBC is doing rather than striving to reach Boeing levels.
But Facebook could not pass on the opportunity of fighting for Internet domination, especially since other rivals are bringing new projects to the table. Google has already announced its high-speed fiber networks and high-altitude balloons; Amazon has its fantastic data centers to show for and has already received authorization to test their experimental delivery drones outside.
Speculation or real products?
Therefore, it wasn’t long until Facebook would give in and present some speculative projects that might take a while before becoming real products. We’re expecting that at least one (or more) of these offbeat endeavors might make it and become the winner.
Ed Lazowska, appointed as the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, said that tech companies like these (Google, Amazon, and Facebook) are the ones that will improve our lifestyle, changing the way technology infiltrates into our everyday lives. There are also smaller yet influent companies, like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, which could jump in with their own ideas, but their time of creating really huge projects seems to have passed.
On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke at a conference in San Francisco and he explained the company will make the code to Messenger, its messaging app, public and available for other companies to work and improve it. This move is strategically helping Facebook in their plan of strengthening its already secure status among mobile computing devices.
This strategy is not surprising anymore, as we have had the chance to witness Facebook becoming more and more influent, and their new projects – virtual reality goggles, drones and AI robots – are all helping them broaden its prestige.
At the same conference, the company presented their plan to transform Messenger in more than just an app – a platform that will include almost 50 other apps, from an app that allows you to transform your texts into songs (whaat?) to one that works as a database for various animated GIF for various moods.
Zuckerberg explained that Facebook intends to allow more developers to creatively improve the platform, as opposed to their previous attempt of coming up with all the new features in-house. Other app makers could build even better upgrades based on the fast and simple tools produced by Facebook.
The more ambitious plans for the Messenger platform is to build and test a system that allows businesses to use it as an intermediary through which users can personalize their purchases. For instance, Messenger might soon be used to change the color of a shirt you just ordered, or track the package UPS delivery system.
Facebook hopes that more and more companies will decide to ink contracts, especially those which usually experiment frequent customer service issues, such as airlines, cable companies and others. So far, only clothing retailers Zulily and Everlane have signed their partnerships.
Testing the skies – a worthy try?
Before the purchase of Ascenta, a drone making company, Facebook did not have a drone team. In this short time since they’ve worked for the Aquila project, the team members believe that they can design a solar-powered craft that can fly up to three months at a time, transmitting high-speed data from 60,000 to 90,000 feet. This project is set to cover some of the most inaccessible regions via laser.
Facebook announced it will begin testing their crafts this summer, although many years might pass until they will become fully commercial. Yael Maguire, chief of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, said they have a lofty ambition of offering Internet to every person on Earth through more than 1,000 drones. This plan will have to pass a lot of obstacles and regulators, but if it works, it will be one of the most impressive feats of technology.
Maguire also added that he looks forward to the day when every single person on the planet will get the same message at the same time. The company is surely not afraid to dream big, even if that day might have to wait quite a long time before it becomes reality.
The final model of Aquila doesn’t seem to be particularly cheap, but Facebook executives aren’t afraid to pledge their billions in realizing their vision. Other critics aren’t so sure it is worth it. Analysts are already wondering what is the cost of such ambitions, and when or if it will start producing money.
Image Source: Quartz
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