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Facebook developing internet connected helicopter

Facebook are developing a helicopter that will deliver an internet connection to war-torn countries.

The team at the social network company are in the "early stages" of designing a vehicle, which could deliver internet access to communities in the wake of a natural disaster.

They said: "One of Facebook's goals is to not only connect communities but to connect them when they need it most. For situations where a faster deployment is needed - such as a natural disaster when infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed but some fibre lines still work - we've developed what we call Tether-tenna.

"It's a small helicopter tethered to a fibre line and power - essentially, insta-infrastructure. If the fibre line is still good to a certain point, we can make a virtual tower by flying a Tether-tenna a few hundred feet from the ground.

"When completed, this technology will be able to be deployed immediately and operate for months at a time to bring back connectivity in case of an emergency - ensuring the local community can stay connected while the in-ground connectivity is under repair. This is still in the early stages of development and lots of work is needed to ensure that it will be able to operate autonomously for months at a time, but we're excited about the progress so far."

And the team are taking steps towards making this a reality, having tested a "solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle" to connect remote locations more cheaply than the traditional "digging" to place fibre into the ground.

Yael Maguire added in a blog post: "For more remote regions we have to look at ways for connectivity to traverse expanses of land cheaply, which is why Facebook is developing MMW and aircraft technology that can beam connectivity through the stratosphere - extending fibre installations at lower cost than trying to dig fibre to these remote regions.

"One way we're doing this is through Aquila, our solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which had its first test flight last year and will be undergoing further flight testing in 2017. But we knew we didn't just need to design and build a plane - the MMW technology needed an update too.

"Last year, our team broke a MMW record while testing a terrestrial point-to-point link in Southern California: a record data rate of nearly 20 Gbps over 13 km. To put this in perspective, our demonstrated capacity at the time was enough data to stream almost 1,000 ultra-high-definition videos at the same time."

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