Facebook’s New Drones Will Bring WiFi When Disaster Strikes

May 9, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Mother Nature has a cruel tendency to knock out cell towers and other infrastructure after major natural disasters, when they are needed most. When communications are down, it’s extremely difficult for disaster relief efforts to coordinate and for panicked families to reach out to endangered loved ones in the impacted area. Fortunately, Facebook and Everfly, a drone startup with a team of just five members, are tackling the problem with their Tether-tenna drone concept. The project is using drones in a way that will surely excite internet of things app developers who believe in innovative, practical, and life-saving applications for drone technology.

One of the many impressive ideas introduced at this year’s F8 developers’ conference, the Tether-tenna project aims to bring wireless internet to disaster-stricken areas. As internet of things app developers know, most quadcopter drones can only stay in the air for a half hour or less, which is hardly useful for broadcasting internet to thousands suddenly left without it. But as the name suggests, the Tether-tenna is tethered to a power line so that it can hover in the air for hours, days, possibly even weeks, if necesary. Facebook and Everfly aren’t quite there yet, but their prototype drone — surprisingly lightweight despite its massive 14-foot wingspan — has reportedly remained in the air for a full 24 hours.

Details are just emerging about Everfly’s involvement in the project. While Facebook engineered the antenna part of the Tether-tenna, San Francisco-based Everfly is responsible for the drone itself. The five person team, headed up by Mikell Taylor, previously worked on disposable cardboard drones for DARPA, the Department of Defense agency responsible for cooking up experimental technology for military use. This collaboration is just one of the drone projects Facebook has in the pipeline. App developers may be familiar with the social media giant’s Aquila project, the goal of which is to launch internet-broadcasting solar-powered drones into the atmosphere. Unfortunately the Aquila test drone crashed and burned last summer, but this collaboration with Everfly appears to have wings.

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