Facebook and Airbus are working on a new drone connectivity project in Australia. The revelation comes after Netzpolitik published a document showing that the two firms are planning tests scheduled to take place in the Australian bush. Using an Airbus Zephyr drone, Facebook will try to beam internet connectivity to the Earth’s surface from the stratosphere which is about 30 km up.
According to the document that was provided through a freedom of information request, Airbus met with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority between March and September last year at least 18 times. Airbus got clearance to conduct drone tests on September 19, 2018, but it’s unclear whether any flights have taken place yet. There were some planned for November and December but the document shows previous test delays. If there were no issues, some flights could have already been conducted.
In a short statement, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that it is working with partners on its High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) but declined to give any specifics about test flights in Australia.
Facebook ultimately aims to put drones into the stratosphere and provide users on the ground with connectivity. The ability to do this is important for web firms like Facebook and Google because billions of people around the world still lack connectivity, with this service Facebook could provide its Free Basics offering or something more comprehensive to those who connect via drones.
Facebook has been dabbling with drone technology for a while now via its Aquila project but that initiative was shut down and now it seems to be pursuing a course where Airbus provides the drones.