Solar powered drones could play a key role in delivering global 5G wireless communications in the years ahead. The feasibility of this was demonstrated this week when the Solar Impulse 2, a Swiss experimental long range aircraft powered by solar panels, flew from Hawaii to California in 62 hours – a journey of 4,000 miles.
Although the green credentials of Solar Impulse 2 were there for all to see, the journey also served as a proof of concept for Google’s ‘Project SkyBender’ initiative to deliver 5G internet by solar powered drones. The SkyBender initiative is part of Google’s Access and Energy unit, which focuses on internet connectivity projects to provide super-fast internet link-ups.
As part of the project Google is using drones to experiment with millimetre-wave radio transmissions, one of the technologies that could underpin next generation 5G wireless internet access.
By 2020, Google plans to start offering 5G wireless millimetre-wave radio technology that operates at speeds up to a thousand times faster than current 4G technologies. Google intends to deploy its drone units from a ‘connectivity backbone’ for 60% of the global population. Google ultimately envisages thousands of high altitude self-flying aircraft delivering internet access around the world.