Can Solar-Powered, Internet-Beaming Drones Solve the Broadband Access Dilemma?
A well-known tech company plans to use a skydiving property to develop drones that can beam Internet service to communities that currently go without.
BY KEN SCHACHTER, NEWSDAY / OCTOBER 6, 20150
A widely known dot-com company plans to use the newly acquired property of a skydiving company in Calverton, N.Y., to develop high-altitude solar-powered drones that can beam Internet service, the property's former owner said Monday.
Raymond F. Maynard, who sold a hangar and the 16.3-acre property of Skydive Long Island, said Calverton was chosen because the buyer was seeking a limited-use airport.
Maynard said that Brooklyn-based Luminati Aerospace LLC, which acquired the property, is backed by a widely known company that plans to build the drones, flying at 90,000 feet, to beam Internet service to communities that lack service. Luminati incorporated in New York in July, according to government documents.
Maynard said that a nondisclosure agreement barred him from identifying the company funding Luminati. "[But] you already know their name," he said.
Maynard said that he was first approached to sell the property in January and that his health issues helped seal the deal as negotiations continued.
"I've owned the business for 29 years," he said. "I've had a fabulous career. . . . It was a great run."
Efforts to reach Luminati, which is scheduled to make a presentation at a Town of Riverhead meeting Thursday, were unsuccessful.
Google has been researching the feasibility of transmitting Internet service from balloons.
And Facebook has been working to develop a fleet of solar-powered drones that could beam data to the ground. In a post on the social network Monday, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook also is working with French satellite company Eutelsat Communications SA to launch a satellite in 2016 to transmit Internet service to sub-Saharan Africa.
"Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam Internet access down into communities from the sky," he said. "I'm excited to announce our first project to deliver Internet from space. . We're going to keep working to connect the entire world -- even if that means looking beyond our planet."
©2015 Newsday. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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