Google has cancelled its Titan drone project with a drone the size of an airliner first launched August 2015, intended to beam the internet to over one billion people lacking it. This 5kW microgrid was intended to stay up for weeks or years. Now Facebook has cancelled its Aquila version while the Chinese equivalent High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) System pulls ahead demonstrating three weeks in at 20,000 meters in the upper atmosphere on sunshine alone, thanks to an on-board battery. For more information see the IDTechEx report on off grid zero-emission electricity.
It was a shock because a team of talented engineers at Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Connectivity Lab had already developed a new laser technology to deliver fast internet access to remote areas all around the globe. Facebook cited 'technological and geographical limitations' as the reasons behind this decision to permanently close down the dream of building a solar powered plane to serve internet to everyone in the world. It had deployed only 16 people for the development and maintenance of the aircraft, showing some lack of realism as to the investment needed to get into aerospace.
"We've decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgewater UK." Facebook's Yael Maguire declared in a news post on the company's coding subsite. "Of course, HAPS connectivity requires more than just an aircraft. We've made important progress on some of the other key parts of the system-including setting new records using millimeter-wave (MMW) technology in air-to-ground and point-to-point communication".
Before this, Facebook had already moved aside from its Express Wi-Fi Project implementation in India which aimed at bringing internet to every part of this huge country despite having talks with a number of Indian Telco's for the trials of its AQUILA drones as quoted by ET report from Robert Pepper, Facebook's connectivity public policy director. The reason is still unknown. However, Facebook is not giving up on its efforts to help connect the 4 billion people who still do not have access to the internet. This California based giant confirmed that it will continue supporting entrepreneurs in programs like Express Wi-Fi which is an integral part of Facebook's much talked about Internet.org mission.
Top image: Titan Aerospace