Social media giant Facebook has explored ways to improve mobile connectivity for years and the main purpose for doing this is obviously to get more number of people in developed countries online. It would indirectly lead to a growth of the platform’s user base too as nowadays it is highly unlikely for people who use internet regularly to not be Facebook. However, the company says that it is doing it for humanitarian reasons.
Among the most noticeable efforts by Facebook have been its Internet.Org initiative, and its Free Basics and Express Wi-Fi offerings that were launched for fast-growing smartphone markets. Another project that can be recalled is Aquila, that has now been discontinued. As a part of the Facebook’s Aquila project, the company wanted to fly large, solar-powered drones which could send internet connectivity down to people.
However, according to a report in Business Insider that quoted a Facebook spokesperson, the company has also secretly been working on another method in which it plans to use small, bird-sized fixed wing aircraft that can be used to boost performance smartphone data speeds. The project is called ‘Catalina’ and has been named after an island near the Southern California coast, which is popular because it earlier used a carrier pigeon network. Although this was discontinued a year ago, its existence shows that the company wanted connectivity via a variety of lenses.
According to the report, the drones that Facebook wanted to use were close to the size of a sparrow. Furthermore, with the project the company did not aim to beam down internet connectivity in remote areas, instead it wanted to augment existing, 2G-level connections so that smartphone users could carry “high-density solid state drives… that could then be used to ferry data.” From what it seems like, the drones would act like mesh network between a grounded connection and the user’s handset in order to facilitate between high-bandwidth data transfers.
However, the company eventually moved away from the idea and abandoned the Aquila project. But then, it still has Internet.org running in various countries across the globe.
The news about Aquila project first surfaced online in June 2018 and back then, the social media giant said that it was still working with Airbus in order to develop enhanced high-altitude platform stations. These are also known as HAPS and can be built into the aircraft in order to beam down high speed internet from low Earth orbit.