Facebook’s massive new drone will beam the Internet down to developing countries

It’s been repeated frequently that Facebook’s mission is to connect everyone around the world, but the state of the current Internet only gets it so far. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has decided to carry the banner to promote what he calls the “Knowledge Economy.” Through his Internet.org organization, he’s made it a point to find a way to effectively interlink the next five billion people.

Today is the latest step in its pursuit of that goal: the unveiling of a massive drone designed to facilitate the distribution of the Internet by telecommunications carriers to those in developing countries. Called Aquila, it’s a solar-powered aircraft that can create a 50-kilometer communications radius for up to 90 days. Signals will be received by small towers and dishes on the ground that will convert it into a Wi-Fi or LTE network people can connect to using their mobile device.

Capable of soaring between 60,000 to 90,000 feet during the day, Aquila won’t be visible by the naked eye — it’ll be in the stratosphere, high above any commercial air traffic and weather. Facebook said that it’s testing out the aircraft in sub-scale flights already in the United Kingdom and expects to test the full-scale model later this year