Google Testing Solar-powered Drones for Project SkyBender
January 30, 2016
A number of sources have quoted a report in the UK’s ‘The Guardian’ newspaper that suggests Google is secretly testing solar-powered drones that they ultimately intend to use to deliver 5G internet services. Named Project SkyBender, the testing is taking place at Spaceport America, located in the Jornada del Muerto desert, New Mexico, United States. A number of prototype transcievers and drones are being tested as part of the project.
According to the report, the drones are testing millimeter wave radio transmissions in the 28GHz frequency, which offers faster speeds (40 times faster than 4G LTE technologies) but less range than 4G. The solution is expected to be able to transfer several gigabits of data per second.
Project SkyBender is under the Google Access team which is also in charge of Project Loon – what Google calls a “network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters”. The Guardian learned of Project SkyBender through documents available as public records in the United States.
Google is housing their drones in a 15,000 square feet hangar at the Gateway to Space terminal which was designed by Richard Foster for spaceflights planned by Virgin Galactic. Google has also built a flight control center in the Spaceflight Operations Center near the terminal.