"As innovation is one of the central themes of the APEC Summit this week, we are realizing an interactive exhibition in Lima presenting some of our most ambitious projects", Facebook announced in a statement earlier this week. As part of the Innovation Lab project organized by Facebook, the exposition showcases solar-powered airplanes able to beam internet to remote parts of the world, artificial intelligence products and seemingly futuristic virtual reality experiences that are redefining the way we connect and interact.
Bringing internet to the remotest parts of the world
One of the highlights of the exhibition, which unfortunately isn’t open to the public, is the presentation of Aquila, Facebook’s high-altitude unmanned aircraft. Just four months after its highly successful first full-scale test flight, the vision of bringing affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places of the world soon could be reality.
Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, but being made of a carbon fiber composite only weights less than 1000 pounds (around 400kg) at the moment. The solar-powered airplane is hyper efficient using only around 5000 watts (the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave) and supposed to be in the air for up to three month.
How does Aquila work?
The idea is to create a network of these drones that are connected by a newly developed laser technique. So, flying at high altitudes and using laser communications and millimeter wave systems the planes will be able to communicate with each other and with special ground equipment easy to be installed everywhere in the world.
The plan is that the airplanes receive broadband signals from the nearest city with internet service, beamed up to them via laser. Each Aquila plane then is able to transmit and share the signals with any other plane in the network and in the end broadcast internet connectivity down to the remotest areas of the world.
Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg see it as their mission to connect the world and get more than 4 billion people, who right now don’t have access to the internet, online.
Mark Zuckerberg at the APEC 2016
The Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will only be in Lima on November the 19th aiming at attracting the interest of APEC members for his Aquila venture and other ambitious projects.
During the APEC CEO Summit the Facebook founder will give a speech with the title "The Connectivity Revolution" at the Grand National Theater in Lima’s district San Borja. A meeting with Peru’s president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, second vice president Mercedes Aráoz, Prime Minister Fernando Zavala, as well as ministers Jaime Saavedra (education) and Martin Vizcarra (transport and communications) is scheduled afterwards at the Lima Convention Center. In the afternoon, Zuckerberg joins an informal dialogue with the attending leaders.