The globalization of human connection is part of a long, centuries-old trend in the “modern age.” But the 21-st century “synchronous world” still has a vast “outside”–a blank spot on the map that is about to be incorporated by a swarm of atmospheric drones.
Facebook is on course to buy a drone manufacturer that will allow the company to beam the internet top communities across Africa. The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, whose goal is to connect the world’s remaining “offline” population. Other members include giant telecommunications corporations such as Ericsson.
The Solara drones in question are manufactured by “Titan Aerospace,” and are solar-powered UAVs that can remain in the air for up to five years at at time, at heights of up to 65,000 feet, thereby functioning as a low-level satellite. The company calls this “atmospheric parking.” Facebook is intending to build 11,000 of the drones. The project will compete with Google’s “Project Loon”, which will see 30 balloons launched into the stratosphere to provide 3G-like internet speeds–but only for 100 days at a time.
Of course, the “offline population” represents a vast market for the telecommunications “titans”; a space outside the inter-net that can be economically colonized. And with the freedom to connect comes the freedom to survey…