Facebook bets on Internet drones and virtual reality tech

Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and drones will enable Facebook Inc. to create a more lifelike and useful social network, the company said in its clearest explanation so far of technology projects that have puzzled some investors and analysts. Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced the successful test of a wide-winged, solar-powered drone, dubbed “Aquila,” built to deliver wireless Internet service to millions of people in remote parts of the world. The drones, which will fly at an altitude of up to 17 miles, are part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative.

Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing Internet infrastructure.

Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook

The unpiloted aerial vehicle has a wingspan greater than that of a Boeing 737 passenger jet and weighs about as much as a small car. Facebook’s vision of its future includes “teleporting” users with virtual reality technology from Oculus, which Facebook bought last year. While virtual reality headsets suggest video games and entertainment, the gadgets could transform how people communicate on Facebook. Events such as a birthday party or a child’s first bike ride could be shared so that users in different parts of the world can feel as if they are taking part.