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Solar-powered aircraft to bring internet to remote places


Solar powered unmanned aircraft could bring internet to remote areas of the world, including the hills of Myanmar. Photo: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Solar powered unmanned aircraft could bring internet to remote areas of the world, including the hills of Myanmar. Photo: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Myanmar could soon benefit from a project run by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to spread internet connection to remote parts of the world.

Partly inspired by the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, currently sitting at Mandalay International Airport, Internet.org – a spin-off from Mr Zuckerberg’s efforts for Facebook – seeks to connect the world and use an unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky.

“Today, I'm excited to share that we've successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on March 26.

“The final design will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but will weigh less than a car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time,” he said.

Mr Zuckerberg said aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure. 

Solar Impulse 2 is of similar size, but is a manned aircraft that typically flies at lower altitudes. The aircraft is currently on a potentially world record breaking attempt to fly around the world solely using solar energy.

Mr Zuckerberg visited neighbouring India last year with a promise of connecting the millions of Indians not yet online.

Efforts are already underway in Myanmar to expand mobile phone and internet connections to the 80 percent of the country currently not connected. Myanmar is one of the many countries around the world that could benefit from the projects underway by Internet.org, OneWeb and entrepreneur Mr Elon Musk that aim to connect over 3 billion people around the world who are currently not online.

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