Facebook plans to put 747-sized drones in the sky

Facebook and Internet.org revealed plans back in March to bring Internet connectivity to every part of the world. One of those plans involved beaming wireless signals down from an aircraft.

This week, we learned that aircraft is going to be big, and when it goes up, they're hoping it doesn't come down — for a while, at least.

Yael Maguire, engineering director at the Facebook Connectivity Lab, told Mashable the company's Internet drones would likely be solar-powered and the size of a "commercial aircraft, like a 747."

Maguire says at least one model is about as long as six or seven Toyota Priuses. The reason for the size has to do with operating effectively at high altitudes.

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"We're looking at a new type of plane architecture that flies at roughly 20,000 meters because that's the point the wind is the lowest, it's above commercial airlines, it's even above the weather. ... They have the ability to broadcast Internet down, but significantly closer than a satellite."

Solar power could also help these planes stay in the air for months at a time and provide a solid Internet signal to suburban or medium-density areas around the world.

Of course, getting permission to put the planes in the sky might be just as difficult as developing the technology to keep them there.

Wired writes the altitude "puts these drones on tricky regulatory footing, since there are essentially no regulations on aircraft that fly above 60,000 feet in the air." As for them being unmanned, "Facebook and its counterparts will also have to find a way around regulations dictating that there must be one human operator to every drone."

The Federal Aviation Administration hasn't issued rules for unmanned aircraft in the U.S., but it's expected to by the end of this year — before the drone's 2015 launch date. Maguire added those drones could be beaming down wireless signals in the next 3-5 years.

This video includes images from Getty Images.