Facebook's internet-beaming drone is getting better

The social networking giant's Wi-Fi drone, called Aquila, isn't just flying. It's also improving its wireless data speeds.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

You've heard of 4G, 5G and Wi-FI. Now get ready for MMW.

That's the shorthand for millimeter-wave radio, the technology Facebook is using to transmit data to its internet-beaming drone called Aquila, which had its first flight (and crash) last year. (That setback doesn't appear to be slowing Facebook's efforts though, and it's planning further tests this year.)

Facebook said it set a radio speed record with its MMW radio technology earlier this month, effectively quadrupling the download speeds. Before, at its best it was able to stream the equivalent of nearly 1,000 ultra-HD videos at the same time. Now it can do up to 4,000 videos.

Facebook's drone will beam the internet everywhere

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Facebook hasn't tested this technology on the Aquila drone yet, apparently. Instead, its tests involved a Cessna aircraft circling about 4 miles away. "This ground-to-air record modeled, for the first time, a real-life test of how this technology will be used," wrote Yael Maguire, a director for the connectivity program, in a blog entry posted during Facebook's F8 developer conference in San Jose, California.

Ultimately, radio technology combined with Facebook's drones will allow it to beam connections to the remote areas of the globe that otherwise don't have access to the internet.

"Our goal is simple: We want to connect the 4.1 billion people who aren't already connected to the internet," Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said during a speech on stage.

Watch this: Facebook's Wi-Fi drone, Aquila, improves wireless data speeds

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