back to article Zuck: Web drones, not balloons (cough, cough Google) are way forward

Facebook's chief Mark Zuckerberg thinks his plan to carpet a portion of the world with internet-dispensing drones is a better approach than Google's Loon balloons. The advertising mogul mused in a paper, published on Friday, the types of technologies he hopes to deploy via his company's just-announced Connectivity Lab to get …


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  1. dwrjones87

    Growth for the sake of growth is the mentality of a cancer cell

    1. skeptical i

      cancer cells ...

      ... and publicly held companies.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: cancer cells ...

        ...and economists. If they want continuous growth, we should force feed them to ensure that their mass increases by a minimum of 10% per annum. Anything less than that would be a failure.

  2. Crazy Operations Guy

    This would only hurt their revenues

    Both these companies make their money from advertising, and the value of their advertising is directly proportional to the value of the eyeballs (Value in this case is how likely the viewer is to buy the advertised product). But that value plummets drastically when you add millions of poor people that can't afford clean water, let alone whatever shlock is being shown to them. Hell, did they even think about the fact that very, very few people even have electricity, let alone some type of device that would let them use the internet?

    I agree with Gates here in that giving them things to help them live would be a much better investment than them being able to post "Lost my brother to dysentery, second time this year" to TwitFace+.

  3. Sanctimonious Prick

    I Wish Them Luck

    Seriously. Within the next twelve months, we're going to see trials. Within the next 2 years, we'll see this technology in our skies on an everyday basis, just like we see the Sun and Moon day and night.

  4. RISC OS

    FB & Google...

    ... should try living in the real world... the people without internet today either don't wont it or they have too many other serious issues in their life to be able to use it...

    when you live in a country where your children can die from a case of the shits, what you really worry about is accessing facebook to view photos of cats.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: FB & Google...

      I think Bill's missing a bit of a trick here. When people in a remote village come down with something, it would help a lot if the local clinic was able to get Internet access, look up the symptoms, and come up with a possible treatment.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Re: FB & Google...

        Not to mention uploading a picture of the rash etc. to a doctor.

        There might also be benefits in distributing aid. Overcrowded refugee camps bring their own problems, but perhaps connectivity will allow more people to receive aid where they are.

      2. andreas koch

        @ Charles 9 - Re: FB & Google...

        X!au lives in Botswana, some miles into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. He has had an upset stomach for the last 6 months and now it's getting really bad. The next town with a doctor is Letlhakane, 125 miles northeast. When he gets there after 3 weeks, (alone, his family can't spare another member) the doctor, who is paid by the mining companies in the area and very busy with broken hands, legs and concussions, will surely look up his symptoms on Google and give him a couple of packs of Omeprazole that he begged of a fellow doctor in Mahalapye on his Facebook page. 2 weeks later he will post on Twitter that X!au is much better now and on his way back.

        X!au's family unfortunately don't look at Dr. Akinya's tweet, because they haven't got a screen nor the electricity to run it even if they could read.

        They also don't know that X!au was trampled to death by a gnu* 10 miles from home.

        Charles, anything usual that has a chance to get treated with something off the standard WHO med list will be known by a doctor, or can be had from a book that doesn't need an infrastructure to power it. Everything else, sad as it is, will be untreatable due to a lack of funds.

        Tesla can't even get a covering network of charging stations going in the high-tech US. Getting the remotest places on Earth on the 'net is like putting salt and pepper on a steak that is still part of it's live wildebeest and busy moving it around.

        If our 'civilized' lifestyle is really what people in those regions want, if it is the best way, with all the advantages and the drawbacks, it will have to grow there. Otherwise all we get is Google+ or Facebook picture posts of rapidly approaching bovines.

        * not Richard Stallman's fault.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Charles 9 - FB & Google...

          If it's a traveling clinic, it'll want to travel light and focus more on supplies than research: fewer books, more bandages, etc.

        2. Charles Manning

          Re: @ Charles 9 - FB & Google...

          Very coherently written.

          I went to university and got a post grad qualification in Computer Science. I emerged thinking I could do a whole lot for the world (the arrogance of youth). I suppose I have done quite a bit for the city living tech world, but I've done bugger all for most people out there.

          I also grew up in rural Africa and can speak 3 African languages. In many of these areas there is no clinic, no phone and the people don't even have bank accounts, let alone mobile phones and twitter accounts.

          These hypothetical examples of sending pictures of rashes are bollocks for most people. What the people need is way lower level than that. Access to a nurse once a month who teaches basic stuff, has very basic meds and just a stethoscope would be a huge step up, and easy to achieve.

          My sister (a nurse) is currently trying to set up a charity-funded clinic in rural South Africa. At present she does stuff off her own bat (her free time and when she can afford the petrol etc to drive 400km round trip). If it gets off the ground, that clinic will run for 1 week per month - with just a couple of nurses - and serve about 5000 people. Cost: around $40k per year.

          That's the sort of stuff that actually gets things done in the Third world, not drones and other rich-boy toys.

          In most of these places there is no infrastructure to service the technology. As a result much foreign aid just ends up wasted. Foreign aid and medical support fails to get through because the trucks break. A Sweish aid program supplied Swedish tractors that were all broken within 3 years because people only knew how to service Massey Ferguson tractors.

          Unless drones etc come with huge service teams and a BOFH in every village, they will just end up littering the countriside.

          Far better to spend a tenth of the money on stuff that really matters.

      3. westlake

        Re: FB & Google...

        <<When people in a remote village come down with something, it would help a lot if the local clinic was able to get Internet access, look up the symptoms, and come up with a possible treatment.<<

        This assumes there is a clinic.

        That the symptoms aren't well known.

        and that the clinic has the resources to provide anything more than palliative care.

        1. RISC OS

          Re: FB & Google...


      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FB & Google...

        There have been reports about gifts/donations from BG's charity being tied to buying IT kit running Windows. The last thing a developing country is thousands of these devices might provide will be spent connecting to downloading the latest Patch Tuesday mega fix.

  5. frank ly

    Drones or balloons

    You could have a drone with three/four small balloons attached along its fuselage. Has anyone tried this technique?

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Drones or balloons

      "You could have a drone with three/four small balloons attached along its fuselage. Has anyone tried this technique?"

      Small balloons are useless. The other way around is 100 year old technology and still very much used, though with modern improvements.

  6. JDX Gold badge

    It's very cool from the tech/sci-fi angle, that much is true. Claiming it is "helping the world" is a bit much but I don't particularly think private companies have a corporate responsibility TO help the world. It's great when they do, but it's also great when massive companies are happy to invest in long-term, far-fetched projects. No reason they can't do both.

    1. Charles Manning

      It is great when they help the world.

      It is NOT great when they claim the brownie points for saving the world when they are really just pulling a PR stunt and achieving SFA.

  7. mathew42

    Information is an advantage.

    - If a farmer knows the price of their crop in the market, then they can receive a fairer deal from the middle man.

    - If the community "nurse" can search online and receive training the quality of care improves.

    The problem I see is that both projects require external antennas. How many of the areas are outside of existing mobile phone coverage?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Both are trying to get a solution around by putting out more antennas to increase the coverage area.

  8. Howard Long

    Speaking as both a pilot and a satcom RF engineer, pigs will fly better.

    Technologically it's questionable how this can reasonably work, let alone the regulatory hurdles that'll need addressing. Just how much bandwidth is each individual going to get from these flying WiFi routers?

    Pie in the sky, little more than a Facebook marketing puff piece from the pimply faced social media boy wonder.

  9. aliterate

    ... and privately held companies.

  10. Balloons


    Hasn't google worked on a google project for some time now.

    Should tie-up on these projects!

  11. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Seriously, Zuck

    "Precise control" is why we teach teenage boys about the (virtual) birds and bees. We don't let them play with drones.

    Apparently your drones want to play with themselves, in a cool hipster fashion, of course.

  12. Uncle Siggy


    Why are Google and Facebook in such a hurry to deploy the NSA's next observation deck?

  13. All names Taken

    Scuse me?

    Can you tel me the way to San Jose?

  14. RegW

    Send in the drones

    Is it me or is everyone avoiding the word Skynet?

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