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Google is using drones to zap high-speed 5G internet from the skies

Google wants to use solar-powered drones to rain down high-speed 5G internet from the heavens

By Derek Strickland | Feb 1, 2016 03:30 pm CST

Google has a new ambitious plan to use solar-powered drones to zap high-speed internet from the heavens down to Earth.


According to reports from The Guardian, the secret project is called SkyBender, and is centralized in New Mexico's Gateway to Space terminal. Google's Project SkyBender is using solar-powered Solara 50 UAVs from the Google Titan division to experiment with high-speed millimeter-wave radio transmissions. The drones essentially beam the transmissions from the skies down to one of two targeted transceivers, bestowing wireless internet to a given area.

High-frequency millimeter-wave transmissions may ultimately pave the way for 5G technology; the signals are up to 40 times more efficient and powerful than 4G LTE, and can transmit up to multiple gigabits of data per second. "The huge advantage of millimetre wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded. It's packed and there's nowhere else to go," said Jacques Rudell, a specialist from the University of Washington.

The main problem with millimeter-wave signals is that they break apart very easily over long distances. In an effort to find a solution, Google wants to see what happens when targeted connections are transmitted from high-altitude self-flying craft.

If SkyBender is a success, Google imagines a future where fleets of drones and optionally-piloted aircraft rain down ultra-powerful internet connections to the entire world. It'll be interesting to see the progress that the company makes, and whether or not millimeter-wave transmissions are viable solutions for next-generation 5G tech.


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