Drones on the Doorstep: Facebook and Amazon Lead the Way

amazon-droneWhat if your Amazon packages were delivered via robot? Or what if your internet connectivity was made possible by a machine in the sky? That’s essentially what two giant companies, Amazon and Facebook, are working on right now with their drone programs. Is the world of science fiction closer than you think?

Facebook’s Plan for Internet Via Laser

Facebook is still in the early stages of testing, but the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently went public with the revelation of Aquila, an unmanned solar aircraft. Aquila is unique, weighing far less than the car you drive to work every day, yet boasting a wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 737.

What’s Aquila’s purpose? To deliver Internet connectivity. To be specific, it transmits information via laser, at a top rate of 10 gigabits each second. It’s a brand-new type of laser, with a faster data transmission rate than any other similar setup to date.

As if the technology’s speed weren’t enough, Facebook claims that the new laser has superb accuracy. Aim it from 10 miles away at a point no larger than a dime, and the device connects precisely at that spot.

Even though multiple users would have to share the bandwidth from Aquila or a similar drone, the potential for the technology is vast. Zuckerberg envisions a network of drones, connected via lasers, but communicating with ground control through standard radio signals. He calls it a “constellation” of drone aircraft, whose primary purpose is to yield Internet access to remote areas of the world where no such access is currently available.

Amazon’s Vision for Drone Delivery

Since unmanned aircraft already exist and are widely in use, Facebook’s plan seems viable and has exciting ramifications for travelers. On the other hand, Amazon’s idea of using drones to deliver packages sounds like something straight out of the pages of a novel. However, at NASA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management Convention, Amazon presented a keynote address that revealed more of its upcoming program.

Of course, having a bunch of drones buzzing around the sky could cause havoc, so Amazon wants to reserve a particular section of airspace, about 200-400 feet above ground. This area would serve as a “lane” of sorts for commercial drones. To prevent any collisions between aircraft and drones, planes would need to stay at 500 feet or higher, and no drones would be allowed to fly in zones near airports. In the “fast lane” would be swift, high-tech drones from Amazon and other companies, all connected to remote traffic management systems. In the space below 200 feet, average users could fly their own consumer drones.

While Amazon’s plan may initially seem far-fetched, the possibility of drone delivery within the next few decades is quite real, as is the potential for internet access in far-flung regions of the world. With technology, time, funding, and determination, human beings continue to test the limits of what is possible.

About the Author

Roger Feinstein has grown up with computers his entire life and strives to help others understand what goes on behind the scenes in their PCs. He's been writing tech articles for websites for over 5 years.

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