Facebook has this week announced the cessation of its Aquila drone internet connectivity project, which aimed to bring internet access to billions more users in remote regions.
Facebook hasn’t released a lot of detail on their decision to step away from the project, but it sounds like it’s possible that they may be able to continue the initiative by working with existing airline carriers, as opposed to footing the full bill themselves.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus on HAPS connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries.”
Aquila – which Facebook has invested more than $20 million into already – was long framed as a key element in Facebook’s plan to ‘Connect the World’, which was The Social Network’s old mission statement before updating it to ‘Bring the World Closer Together’ following the 2016 US Presidential Election. Seeing how its platform was used to spread misinformation, and potentially influence the election’s outcome, Facebook shifted focus – but surely that change is not the reason why Aquila has lost favor.
Indeed, Facebook says that nearly four billion people are still without internet access – they have connected more than 100 million more users through the company’s internet.org initiative, but their projects have also been met with resistance in several regions, most notably India.
Maybe the bureaucratic hurdles have proved too much, too expensive for Facebook to continue to invest in such technology. Or maybe, as noted, they’ve just found a better way.
Whatever the reason, you can bet that Facebook will continue to investigate ways to connect more people, as more users equals more money, and greater dominance for the social platform.
They’ll just need to find an alternate approach.