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Google’s (GOOG) Project Skybender to beam 5G internet from solar drones

A new report has revealed that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is planning to beam 5G internet using flying solar drones. The top secret project called Project Skybender is being developed by the same team that brought Project Loon.

Mountain View has already begun conducting secret tests in Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Millimetre wave technology allows transmitting data, 40 times faster than 4G, and is the backbone of 5G internet. Google is testing the technology using flying drones and other aircraft that would use millimetre wave transmissions, to beam gigabit internet speeds. In 2012, DARPA began working on this technology for remote military bases.

“The huge advantage of millimetre wave is access to new spectrum because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded,” said professor Jacques Rudell, University of Washington.

However, these transmissions have a limited working range, lower than today’s 4G transmissions. Google is likely to be working on the issue as it is planning to beam the internet from the sky. Currently, the project code-named Skybender, is using a solar-powered drone called Solara 50 made by Titan Aerospace and an “optionally piloted aircraft (OPA)” for its tests. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has permitted Google to conduct tests in New Mexico until July. Around 15,000 feet of space has been leased out to Google at the Virgin Galactic “Gateway to Space” terminal, for $1,000 a day. The company has already spent about $300,000 for a range of equipment that is needed to run the tests.

Google has also established its exclusive flight control center in the nearby SpaceFlight Operations Center. The tech giant will have exclusive access to the Spaceport’s runway during testing and will venture above the White Sands Missile Range. Last summer, it took Google about several months to install communication systems on concrete pads at Spaceport America. One millimetre transreceiver was located near Spaceport Operations Centre (SOC), another four miles away from Vertical Launch Area (VLA), a repeater tower and several other sites, to test the wave reception.

In 2014, DARPA, an agency of the US military announced a program called Mobile Hotspots, which used drones to beam high-speed internet to troops operating in limited areas. The new technology could also be used to offer wireless connectivity during natural disasters. Google has declined to comment on the report.

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