Project Skybender: Google's Secret Drone Testing Revealed

Not too long ago we featured Aquila, Facebook's internet delivering drone currently in testing. We said at the time that the social media giants weren't the only company looking into high altitude, solar-powered drones, and news just in from Google shows that we were right.

Back in 2014 Google purchased Titan Aerospace, a drone company specializing in high altitude drones capable of gliding across the edge of the atmosphere, blanketing the globe in inexpensive, omnipresent internet connectivity. Now, details have been revealed of Google drones in testing at Spaceport America, New Mexico, capable of transmitting 5G internet to remote locations around the world and flying for months at a time.  

In an exclusive report from The Guardian, documents appear to show that trials using new millimetre wave technology are underway, testing the capability of different drones to deliver data potentially 40 times faster than 4G. It's understood that one of the drones being put through its paces is Titan Aerospace's Solara 50 (below) alongside several others and a range of different transceivers. 

In order to house the drones and support aircraft, Google is renting hangar space in the shiny but underused 'Gateway to Space' terminal, originally designed for the on-hold Virgin Galactic spaceflights.

Speaking with The Guardian, Jacques Rudell, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, Seatle, said “The huge advantage of millimetre wave is access to a new spectrum, because the existing cellphone spectrum is overcrowded. It’s packed and there’s nowhere else to go”. 

Facebook's Aquila drone

Facebook's Aquila drone

Not everything has been going to plan for Google in New Mexico though. A series of emails obtained by The Guardian show that there have been a number of hiccups, including the need to "run out to Home Depot" to buy some grounding straps to protect sensitive electronic equipment. It's just a shame the nearest store was over 100 miles away!