Satellite or drone internet?
2016年12月22日 Dr Peter Harrop
Beaming the internet to the 4.5 billion people that do not have it should be massively profitable. It will also help to raise the poorest areas out of poverty. Similar technology is used for military surveillance so there are many interested parties and many sources of funding here. Google and Facebook are strongly investing because they provide their services over the internet. Facebook has its huge Aquila fixed wing drone intended to stay up for five years on sunshine and cost less than equivalent satellites. Such a drone up at 60,000 feet can be repositioned more easily than a satellite. That was also true of the cancelled Northrop Grumman project for $517 million autonomous solar airship. It was to redeploy anywhere in the world in 15 days.
A year and a half after OneWeb landed more than $500 million to start building its global satellite network, the company has a massive new $1.2 billion financing, $1 billion of which will come from Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank which recently bought leading low power chipmaker ARM for billions and seems to have unlimited money.
OneWeb is seeking to create a network of orbiting satellites that provide affordable internet access to markets around the globe that don't have high-speed connectivity—particularly the millions of schools without broadband—within the next decade.
With that heroic goal in mind, OneWeb will use the fresh funds to build a Florida production facility that, starting in 2018, will be capable of making 15 satellites per week. 2019 launch is on the cards.
OneWeb's venture has two rather notable direct competitors: Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing (NYSE: BA), both of which asked the US government earlier this year for permission to launch similar networks of internet-providing satellites. It remains to be seen which company—if any—will succeed, but it appears investors have billions of dollars of faith in the idea.
For more on photovoltaics for satellites and drones and the technology and potential of all drones see Energy Harvesting: Off-Grid Microwatt to Megawatt 2017-2027 and Electric Drones: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) 2015-2025
Top image: Facebook