Technology major Google is testing solar-powered drones for fast 5G internet service codenamed Project SkyBender, according to a freshly published report in the Guardian. Google Access team is working on the new project. According to the Guardian report, at Spaceport America in New Mexico, radio receivers on ground catch signals from multiple drones during the trail run of 5G internet service. Google’s Project SkyBender is using millimeter wave technology for high-speed internet access.
Google’s project works with solar-powered drones emitting fast signals using millimeter wave technology. However, there is a big constraint on this technology – the region covered. Compared to 4G technology currently available, the region where fast signal is available under Project SkyBender is quite limited.
Google has also installed a dedicated flight control center near Spaceflight Operations Center. Google team has been working on the project for past few months. They have also setup two communication installations on concrete pads at Spaceport America.
At an event, a startup Starry showcased expensive router with high speed internet access using high frequency spectrum. The router was capable of supporting gigabit speeds.
It is quite possible that Google is testing the technology for quick deployment in places affected by natural disaster. It may not find application in commercial market any time soon.
“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,” says Jacques Rudell, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.
According to a report published by PhoneArena, “Project SkyBender is being developed by the same Google Access team that is working on a way to deliver wireless internet using balloons floating through the stratosphere. The solar-powered drones are made by Google Titan, and the SkyBender project is being tested with a optionally piloted plane called Centaur.”
A PCMag report on Google’s new project added, “It’s actually leasing around 15,000 or so feet of space at the Virgin Galactic “Gateway to Space” terminal for an alleged $ 1,000 per day, and has spent around $ 300,000 for the various equipment it needs to run its tests. These tests will continue until July or so, which is how long the Federal Communications Commission has given the company permission to run them.”
Google Access team working on the 5G technology powered by solar drones has been working on Project Loon as well. Project Loon aims to offer wireless internet using balloons floating in the stratosphere.
In 2014, US military research arm DARPA also announced a project named Mobile Hotspots to provide gigabit per second internet service for troops in remote areas. The project idea was to use fleet of drones to offer fast internet.
According to the report published in the Guardian, Google hasn’t commented on the project. In an email response, an executive from Virgin Galactic said, “We will be arranging numerous activities around these occupancy periods, which would be impacted if there was any [timing changes].”