Facebook gives up on building internet drones
Posted June 26, 2018 9:54 p.m. EDT
Updated June 28, 2018 5:45 p.m. EDT
HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — Facebook has abandoned an ambitious plan to design and produce its own drones.
The Aquila program was part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's goal to "connect the whole world." The plan was to build drones that would fly above remote areas and beam internet down to people below. Facebook successfully built a drone in 2015, and conducted full-scale test flights -- with mixed results.
But in a blog post late Tuesday, the company said it is now leaving the design and construction of such aircraft to the experts in the aerospace industry, which has started investing in the technology.
"Given these developments, we've decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer," Facebook engineering director Yael Maguire wrote in the blog post.
Instead, Facebook will work with partners like Airbus to develop drones that can fly at high altitudes for extended periods of time to beam internet down from the sky.
Billions of people around the globe still lack internet access, so some big tech companies have been pursuing ways to connect them from the air.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, has Project Loon, which uses high-altitude balloons to provide internet to remote areas. It has been deployed after natural disasters in Peru and Puerto Rico.
SpaceX wants to put thousands of tiny satellites into space to deliver high-speed broadband around the world, but those plans are still in their early stages.
Facebook has also experimented with other approaches. Last year, it showcased a program involving small helicopters connected to internet cables that could help people get online in disaster zones.