(Adds details on drones, satellites, hiring, background on
Facebook and Google projects, stock price)
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, March 27 Facebook Inc is
harnessing satellite, drone and other technology as part of an
ambitious and costly effort to beam Internet connectivity to
people in underdeveloped parts of the world.
The world's No. 1 social network said on Thursday it has
hired aerospace and communications experts from NASA's Jet
Propulsion Lab and its Ames Research Center for the new
"Connectivity Lab" project.
"Today, we're sharing some details of the work Facebook's
Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers
to deliver the internet to everyone," Facebook Chief Executive
Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook.
He gave few specifics and did not specify a time frame.
The move extends the social networking company's
Internet.org effort, aimed at connecting billions of people who
do not currently have Internet access in places such as Africa
and Asia. Facebook has been working with telecommunications
carriers to make Internet access more available and affordable.
"We're going to continue building these partnerships, but
connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology
too," Zuckerberg said in his post.
Facebook envisions a fleet of solar-powered drones as well
as low-earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites delivering
Internet access to different regions of the world. Invisible,
infrared laser beams could allow Facebook to dramatically boost
the speed of the Internet connections provided by the various
aircraft, Facebook said on a Web page that explaining the
Facebook's plans to take to the skies underscore the
company's rising ambitions to exert its influence beyond the
confines of its 1.2 billion-member social network and to set the
pace for new technology that will shape society. On Tuesday,
Facebook announced plans to acquire Oculus VR Inc, a maker of
virtual reality goggles that Facebook hopes could become the
computing platform of the future.
Facebook is following in the steps of Google Inc,
the world's largest Internet search engine, whose Google X
division is working on a variety of so-called "moonshot"
projects including self-driving cars and wearable computers.
Google announced plans last year to use solar-powered
balloons to deliver Internet access to remote regions of the
Among the jobs openings posted on Facebook's website on
Thursday were roles such as Antenna Systems Engineer and
Electro-Optical Network Access Hardware Engineer.
Facebook also said it had hired a five-member team that
worked at Ascenta, a British company whose founders created
early versions of the Zephyr, which Facebook said held the
record for the longest-flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.
Shares of Facebook were up 28 cents, or less than 1 percent,
at $61.25 in after-hours trading on Thursday.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis and Andrew Hay)