(Source: New York Times)
In classical mythology, Aquila is the eagle carrying Jupiter’s thunderbolts skyward. At Facebook, it is the code name for a high-flying drone, indicative of the social networking company’s lofty ambitions.
The V-shaped unmanned vehicle, which has about the wingspan of a Boeing 767 but weighs less than a small car, is the centerpiece of Facebook’s plans to connect with the five billion or so people it has yet to reach.
Taking to the skies to beam Internet access down from solar-powered drones may seem like a stretch for a tech company that sells ads to make money. The business model at Facebook, which has 1.4 billion users, has more in common with NBC than Boeing.
But in a high-stakes competition for domination of the Internet, in which Google wields high-altitude balloons and high-speed fiber networks and Amazon has experimental delivery drones and colossal data centers, Facebook is under pressure to show that it, too, can pursue projects that are more speculative than product.
One of those offbeat ideas, or so the thinking goes, could turn out to be a winner.
“The Amazons, Googles and Facebooks are exploring completely new things that will change the way we live,” said Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. “There are other companies out there like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, but they aren’t doing the really huge things anymore.”
At a conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, explained how Facebook was opening the code to Messenger, its mobile messaging app, so other companies can build right on top of what it’s already doing. The move is a key component of its efforts to improve its already strong position among mobile computing devices.
That is Step 1 in a series — including drones, goggles that plug into virtual reality, and artificial intelligence — Facebook plans to work on in the coming years to broaden its influence.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com