Facebook plans to beam wifi from solar-powered drones the size of 747s

A few months ago we reported that Facebook plans to beam wifi to the two-thirds of the world’s population who currently don’t have internet access.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, they’ve now announced that they will do so by using huge, Boeing-747-sized drones, that are powered by the Sun and fly for years at a time.

Yael Maguire, the engineering director at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, told Mashable’s Social Good Summit this week that the drones will be the size of a commercial aircraft, and that:

"In order for us to fly these planes — unmanned planes that have to fly for months, or perhaps years at a time — we actually have to fly above the weather, above all airspace."

However, the model may be a lot lighter than a Boeing 747 - although Maguire said one drone design was the length of six or seven Toyota Priuses, it only weighed as much as four of the car’s tires.

Carl Franzen from The Verge reports that Facebook hopes to test one of these drones in the US in 2015 - and they’re also looking at trials in India and another 21 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

However, there’s no estimate as yet on when its first internet drones will be launched. “It's also unclear just how Facebook will be able to comply with the various aircraft restrictions in any of these countries,” writes Franzen.

Meanwhile, the Google team are working on a similar internet-beaming project - but they’re planning to use balloons as well as drones, and are calling it Project Loon.

It seems the race to connect the unconnected is well and truly underway. Are you team Google or team Facebook?