The world's biggest technology showcase CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) is held every year in Las Vegas over the last 50 years. New 2017 is not an exception – the event ran from January 5 to January 8.
Not only is Google going to great lengths to provide fast Internet, it’s going to great heights as well. In a new initiative known as Project Skybender, the Silicon Valley giant is looking into employing solar-powered drones to beam down 5G Internet. The highly secretive project is based out of — I kid you not — Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and involves a series of unmanned flying devices that use millimeter-wave radio transmissions. These signals are considered the foundation of next generation 5G Wi-Fi, and could potentially send gigabits of data per second, making for Internet that is 40 times faster than 4G LTE.
This is not Google’s only drone-based Internet delivery system currently in testing — there’s also Project Loon, which seeks to provide Internet to the entire world by way of balloons. But the Skybender Project is focused much more on using breakthrough innovations to bring incredibly speedy Wi-Fi to those of us who can no longer stand for decently speedy Internet.
The millimeter wave technology that forms the lynchpin of the whole endeavor is described as the “future of high-speed data transmission technology,” and is thought to be the basis of a next-generation (read: 5G) mobile network. Google isn’t the only company to be experimenting with this transmission technique — as The Verge reports, Chet Kanojia, the founder of Aereo, has a new startup called Starry that also plans to use millimeter waves for gigabit Internet speeds to customers.
The problem with millimeter waves today lies in their short range and volatility (they don’t stand up well to precipitation or even fog), but Google and others are looking to rectify these issues.
Ultimately, says the Guardian, Google hopes to send a fleet thousands of quadcopters strong to deliver 5G Internet. And while there are no promises yet as to the outcome of these ongoing tests, if they work, we’re in for some breakneck Wi-Fi speeds.
It seems if you control a large portion of the internet, you have vested interest in getting the internet to more people. Both Facebook and Google have been testing aerial devices that would be able to provide reliable wireless internet access in remote locations. Until now, Facebook had Aquila, its solar-powered drone armed with Wi-Fi lasers, and Google had Project Loon, huge balloons with transmitters. Both are supposed to literally beam internet from the sky, but both have been confined to limited tests so far.
And now it seems Google has had other tricks up its sleeves to accomplish this goal, according to a new report by The Guardian. The search giant is reportedly testing multiple solar powered drones, and has been since last summer in a remote New Mexico airspace called the Spaceport Authority, according to the Guardian's sources. The space was originally meant to houseVirgin Galactic aircraft.
The technology allegedly used in the devices is not the cell service used by everyday people — at least, not yet. Google is testing 5G wireless internet, which could transmit more than 40 times faster than our 4G LTE service. However, at the reported transmission frequency, 28 Ghz, the signal would also fall off ten times quicker than 4G LTE, so serious power is required in focusing the transmission.
These optionally-piloted aircraft called Centaur, among other drones fromTitan Aerospace, which Google acquired in 2014.
It's not certain how these drones fit in with Project Loon, but the Guardian does say that they're under the same umbrella of Google's Access team, a group like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org, which looks to bring internet to the world. There's also Google's Project Wing, a play to deliver packages which has been largely overshadowed by Amazon's efforts in the same area. (However, crossover in this regard seems unlikely, because of the disparate size in drones.)
In any case, the race to provide the next generation of internet just got a little tighter.