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Facebook buys drone firm based on a Somerset farm

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 31, 2014

Mark Zuckerberg is planning to launch Facebook drones

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A high-tech firm based on a Somerset farm is to help Facebook launch a network of solar-powered pilotless planes to help get the world's most remote regions online.

The US-based web giant has hired the staff of Ascenta, founded and run by Andrew Cox, as well as expertise from NASA.

Around six billion people around the world cannot yet connect to the internet.

In highly remote, sparsely-populated areas Facebook will beam down internet connectivity via satellites, but where there are slightly bigger populations it proposes to use high altitude drones, flying at around 60,000 feet, way above passenger airliners, and also above the weather.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive officer said the technology will transform lives, even helping people: "decide what Government they want."

Mr Cox is understood to have previously worked on the Zephyr, the solar-powered drone plane developed by British defence firm Qinetiq.

Ascenta revealed its first drone, also called Ascenta, at a conference for the Special Operations industry in Florida last year.

It was said to have the ability to: "loiter in the stratosphere above a target area for up to three months, sending back intelligence data to a ground station control system for analysis."

Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on his personal Facebook page: "In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we've been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky. Today, we're sharing some details of the work Facebook's Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet."

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