Look above you into the clear blue sky – a long way above mind, some twelve miles, and you might just see a series of unmanned aircraft.
In this part of the atmosphere, all is quiet, turbulence is a threat for mere mortals on their package holiday flight, and the sun is a constant delight. It is in this rarefied part of the stratosphere that you’ll find a drone. No not a male bee or that noise a badly played bagpipe will make; or thank heavens a Drone of the military kind.
No, the particular drones we refer have in fact been launched by Google and Facebook. They are part of the dogfight between these two giants to provide more internet access in remote areas. Of course, it’s a win/win for the two international mega tech brands as more internet access will result in more customer base for both and that in turn creates more business.
Both have purchased their own aerospace manufacturer. Google bought Titan Aerospace, with Facebook acquiring Ascenta, the small Somerset-based firm.
So let the aerial dogfight begin! But how will this specialist, high altitude, long endurance and lightweight breed of aircraft deliver the ground-breaking Internet access promised?
Well, despite the term ‘Drone’ they are actually better thought of as delicate, very delicate, gliders. They are not required to be as nimble as a drone but would be rather like a satellite. They will be remotely controlled, and with their solar-powered wings, they can stay flying for an expected five years. Incredibly this will allow them to cover an area of 25,000 square miles, providing internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second. If services of these proportions are achieved, then we will truly see a game changer.
Google have already shown that they have the expertise and ambition with the geospatial data in use with their Nest technology that provides the stunning pictures of the planet via Google Maps and excitingly Google have made mention that their technology could also be a force for greater good within the environmental arena. By rigging their drones with sensors and cameras, environmental damage, such as oil spills and deforestation, could be monitored.
So, of course, it is perhaps unavoidable that both companies are investing in technology that will further commercial ambitions; however if by doing so internet access is delivered into countries and regions thus far devoid of a luxury/necessity, so many of us take for granted, then I for one champion it. Surely the humanitarian and scientific empowerment will over-shadow any groans of ‘greed’?
Until next time…