MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook will begin test flights this year for a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737’s, in the next stage of its campaign to deliver Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.
Engineers at the giant social network say they’ve built a drone with a 140-foot wingspan that weighs less than 1,000 pounds. Designed to fly at high altitude for up to three months, it will use lasers to send Internet signals to ground stations.
Facebook is known for online software that lets people share news with friends, watch viral videos — and view commercial advertising. But engineers in a unit called the Connectivity Lab are working on a different set of problems.
For one thing, they are designing a laser communications system they hope will be accurate enough to hit a target the size of a dime at a distance of 11 miles, said Yael Maguire, director of the unit, which is responsible for drones, satellites, and other high-tech communications projects.