Zuckerberg’s Internet Drone Network

By Nadahl Shocair |

I will be honest. When I read about the Amazon drone delivery program, I yawned. The idea of having a zillion drones buzzing my neighborhood delivering books, socks and underwear between the hours of 8 AM and 11 AM is annoying and sets up Amazon for legal injunctions, endless litigation, strict city ordinance orders and all ‘sumsuch’ that would make this drone program next to impossible to fly (pardon the pun). Such drone deliveries would only make sense relegated to delivery addresses in the fields of Kansas and backwoods of Arkansas.

The Facebook Drone Program on the other hand is seriously exciting

I am a big advocate in bridging the digital divide as I cannot fathom a future world where the upper geographic third, the wealthy, are using, utilizing, enjoying and benefiting from advances in smart connected handheld, wearable and implant technology while the world’s two thirds are struggling from one or more problems by being impoverished, battling disease, suffering child mortality, hunger and millions trek daily for hours just to fetch clean water. The divide is getting wider faster and this is a world that I would not wish to live in.

It is a proven fact that arming a roaming tailor in Kaduna, Dhaka or Pemba with a cheap $15 mobile phone on which he could be reached by his customers has improved his lot in life from increased work and income. Before the mobile phone, that person was just unreachable unless you physically went to him or he happened to just show up. Now imagine what an Internet Blanket will do giving Billions of people 24 x 7 access to the Internet for voice, video and data communications and connecting them to the knowledge of the world.

This is Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org plan and I like it.

Titan is the company in Zuckerberg’s acquisition target. It has developed lightweight drone technology that has a ceiling of 65,000 feet, is solar powered, can fly continually for 5 years while carrying a payload of about 50Kg. Exciting? You better believe it!

This all means that they will manage to load the ‘Titan Facebook Drones’ with communications equipment that include communications switching servers, transmitters, radios, repeaters and the like, and viola! … what you essentially have is a floating mobile (voice and data) network blanketing massive geographical areas and giving people in the remotest parts of the world connectivity to the rest of humanity, knowledge and tools.

This in a way is Motorola’s Iridium project revisited. Motorola wanted to launch 66 Low Earth Orbiting Satellites (LEOS) to provide telephony coverage to the entire world. It was pegged as one of the biggest bankruptcies, ever. The core technology is by now far improved and connectivity costs very low, but the concept has already been designed, studied and engineered and it was just waiting for a delivery platform. Mark Zuckerberg may have found just that delivery platform through the acquisition of Titan and for $60 Million.

Only bold courageous moves will bridge the digital divide and I am excited!