Facebook announced earlier this week that it is working with Airbus on a partnership that could finally solve the dilemma of shoddy in-flight internet connections.
Earlier this year, Facebook introduced Aquila, its project to bring internet access to remote parts of the world via drone. On Sunday, the social network company announced that it was partnering with Airbus “to advance spectrum and aviation policy and continue to demonstrate the viability of HAPS [high altitude platform station] systems for providing broadband connectivity.”
When Aquila premieres, “it will be a fleet of solar-powered planes that will beam internet connectivity across the world,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook earlier this year. The fleet will be comprised of unmanned aircraft, capable of flying for months at a time.
While Airbus may seem like an unlikely partnership for increasing global connectivity, bare in mind that the company does more than just build planes. The manufacturer also produces equipment for space travel, including launchers, satellites, and space exploration systems. The Facebook partnership comes the same week that Airbus Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko said in an interview with Bloomberg that the company is investigating a single-pilot and pilotless future for its aircraft.
Airbus’s investment in Aquila could pay off for the passengers aboard their aircraft. Bringing internet to the most remote parts of the world could mean finally eliminating parts of flight routes where the internet connection cuts out. Not only would this mean that passengers could enjoy uninterrupted connectivity, in the event of an emergency, it could mean the virtual elimination of missing planes by filling in gaps in satellite imagery.