Thursday, October 6, 2016

Facebook Seeks Partner Countries for Drone Trials

Facebook Seeks Partner Countries for Drone Trials

Written by: Robert Wall
Blog by: Craig M. Banner

Facebook, Inc. will work with multiple countries and the international community over the next several years to launch drone aircraft that can potentially provide internet bandwidth content to remote locations across the world.  A crucial concern that could stifle this potentially innovative technique concerns the level of regulatory approval that is required from various governments and radio spectrum controllers to operate within their respective airspace(s).  Approximately 57% of the world’s population currently does not have the capability to access the internet and the current growth rate has slowed, meaning that the ability to connect to these users will be difficult, at best.  Despite the eagerness that Facebook, Inc. and the international community have shown to advance the idea of internet connectivity across the world, there is currently no consensus in how this process should be undertaken.  Besides the regulatory burdens involved, Facebook’s drone aircraft, dubbed Aquila, has limited battery power that is considered inadequate in capturing the necessary data and bandwidth requirements that are needed to support these remote locations.  Additionally, the international agreements that are needed to procure drone access across multiple austere borders will take a great amount of deliberation between European Union and United States regulators alone.  As a result, the negotiations and flight trials involved with this process in the coming years will be aimed at ensuring that these drone aircraft are safe, reliable, and necessary to ensure the expansion of internet content across the world.

While the article points out the regulatory burdens that are involved with this process, the use of middlemen in marketing the stated objectives of these drone aircraft underscores the realities involved in procuring the necessary support for the expansion of internet content.  Foreign-country and government-affiliated middlemen support will not be enough, as individual agreements will likely be burdensome for Facebook, Inc. with respect to the market characteristics that deal with cost, capital requirements, control, and coverage.  Government interference will further complicate this process, as a portion of the world that is currently disconnected to the internet is likely a result of a regime’s general opposition to free and accessible internet content.  As the article states, international agreements will be key in allowing Facebook, Inc. unfettered drone access to these regions.  This process will be interesting to watch as it unfolds, particularly with how Facebook, Inc. lobbies the international community while employing foreign-country and government-affiliated middlemen within individual countries to act on its behalf.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting; this demonstrates the implications of difficulties associated with international commerce and business development. Like you mentioned, the drones' usage is so tightly regulated as it is and these new countries will undoubtedly have plenty of regulations to add to the mix.