Facebook is trying to improve internet access in rural India through its Express Wi-Fi project, but it is not bringing its ambitious solar-powered Aquila drone to the country. The drone is aimed at providing affordable internet access to unconnected people in remote areas around the globe.
Aquila was announced at the F8 conference in March 2015 before successfully completing a flying test over Yuma, Arizona in July this year. The solar-powered drone was originally supposed to stay in the air for only 30 minutes, but it ended up flying for 96 minutes, during the flight test.
It was reported in Indian media that the internet beaming drone could be made operational in the country with initial talks between the social media giant, Indian telecom companies and the government supposed to have started. But Umang Bedi, Managing Director, for Facebook in India and South Asia, has said that the drone is not coming to India.
"Aquila is one of our connectivity efforts, which I think, is an experiment for the US only. It's got nothing to do with India; there was some speculation, but that was speculation only," Bedi told FactorDaily.
It came a few days after The Economic Times reported that Facebook has started talks with Indian telecom companies and the government to bring Aquila to India with an aim to provide affordable internet access in remote areas. The paper quoted Robert Pepper, Facebook's Connectivity Public Policy Director, as saying, "Having fibre-like speeds in places without fibre and making it available to anybody is the reason why there's so much interest in Aquila. We have begun discussions with telecom operators to see which ones might be interested."
The solar-powered drone was developed by Facebook Connectivity Lab as part of Internet.org initiative. It aims at providing affordable internet connection to 4 billion people who are deprived of it. Once fully operational, Aquila will stay "airborne for up to 90 days at a time and beam broadband coverage to a 60-mile-wide area on the ground, helping to open the opportunities of the internet to people in underconnected regions." It can circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter and beam internet connectivity from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimetre wave systems.