Build a radical artificial intelligence lab and seat the world’s top AI researcher at the helm. Check. Dump $19 billion on viral chat sensation WhatsApp. Check. Gobble up Oculus VR for a cool $2 billion. Check. Reveal wild master plan to beam the internet to every single person on Earth from the sky. Aaaaah, yup, check.
Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg’s been just a little busy lately.
The social media mogul took a break from his apparently exponentially multiplying Total World Domination task list last night to post on his Facebook wall about his drone dreams, and laser and satellite wishes. Here’s the thing, though: They’re real and really happening. (Rumors, shmumors.)
And the approximately 5 billion people in far flung areas and undeveloped nations who still can’t access the internet might really appreciate them. Perhaps as much as Facebook would likely love to count them as new customers.
Here’s what you need to know about the 1.2 billion-member social giant’s landmark plan to beam Internet connectivity down on the “whole world” from high above the clouds.
1. It calls for drones, satellites and, yes, laser beams, too. Beaming the internet “from the sky” to “every person in the world,” requires some seriously heavy high-tech gear. Zuckerberg said some of it still has to be invented.
That’s why Facebook is going all in to aggressively experiment with stuff like geosynchronous low-earth orbit and satellites that will “beam internet access to the ground” in less populated areas and drones that will emit internet connectivity from upwards of 65,000 feet in the sky above suburban landscapes, much higher than even commercial jetliners can soar.
And don’t forget lasers, the invisible infrared kind that speed up long-distance internet connections. Take that, Google, and your clunky Internet delivery Loon balloons.
2. NASA’s best and brightest are on the job. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s new “Connectivity Lab” project dream team also includes top aerospace and communications tech experts from the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ames Research Center.
Facebook has also charged the brains behind Zephyr, the world’s longest soaring sun-powered drone, with the tall task of creating high-altitude solar internet-beaming drones that can theoretically stay in flight for months at a time, maybe even indefinitely. These would be five very lucky (and very talented) engineers from Ascenta, a Somerset, England-based aerospace startup Facebook might have just acquired for $20 million.
Researchers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are also involved, Facebook said in an announcement.
3. It’s unclear how soon the entire world (!) will have Internet care of Facebook. Zuckerberg hasn’t yet spilled any specific launch dates or timelines for the massive initiative. He did, however, say that the project has “made good progress so far,” noting that Facebook’s work “over the past year” with Internet.org in Paraguay and the Philippines has already given 3 million “new people” access the internet.
4. You, too, can help Facebook take over the world. Ok, maybe only if you’re an “antenna systems engineer” or an “electro-optical network access hardware engineer.” According to Reuters, Facebook posted job openings for both roles on its Careers website yesterday. How about it? Are you putting your name in the hat?
Head spinning yet? This video released by Facebook yesterday should help you wrap your mind around its big, crazy plan: