SkyBender: Google’s Secret Drone Project in New Mexico Using 5G Internet With a Cost of $300,000

By Staff Writer

Jan 30, 2016 03:42 AM EST

Google is reportedly testing solar powered drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico in a secretive project code named SkyBender. The test aims to explore ways to deliver high speed internet from the air.

The tech giant has built several prototype transceivers at the isolated spaceport last summer. Google is temporarily using 15,000 square feet of hangar space in the glamorous Gateway to Space terminal.

The space terminal has been designed by Richard Foster for the much delayed virgin galactic spaceflights. The search engine provider has also installed its own dedicated flight control center in the nearby Spaceflight Operations Center (SOC), separated from the terminal. Google is testing the prototype transceivers with multiple drones, reports The Guardian citing documents under public records laws as the source.

Google is also testing 5G wireless internet, capable of transmitting more than 40 times faster than traditional 4G LTE service. The tested, optionally piloted aircraft are called Centaur from Titan Aerospace, which Google has acquired in 2014, reports Popular Science.

The 5G wireless internet appears to be cutting edge millimeter wave technology, which is considered as the future of high speed data transmission technology. This may form the backbone of 5G mobile network.

However, millimeter waves are of shorter range compared to the current smart phone signals and are vulnerable to weather conditions like rain, fog or snow. Using a phased array, Google eyes to potentially focus the transmission over greater distances, reports The Verge.

Google has spent several months developing two communication installations on concrete pads at Spaceport America during last summer. Project SkyBender is part of the little known Google Access team. It also includes Project Loon to deliver wireless internet using unpowered balloons floating through the stratosphere.

One of the millimeter wave transceivers has been located near SOC and the other in 4 miles away at the Vertical Launch Area (VLA). Google has also set up a repeater tower and numerous other sites around the Spaceport, presumably to test millimeter wave reception.

Google is not the first to work with drones and millimeter wave technology. In 2014, the research arm of US military, Darpa, has announced a program naming Mobile Hotspots. The program has been aimed to make a fleet of drones providing one gigabit per second communications for troops operating in remote areas.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has permitted to continue its tests in New Mexico until July. The $300,000 SkyBender tests appear to be a boon for Virgin Galactic, tumbling with monetary crisis.

Darpa, the research arm of US military has used gigabit per second communication module in a program naming Mobile Hotspots. In a similar attempt, Google has started testing drones at a secret project of Spaceport America in New Mexico using the millimeter wave technology. FCC has permitted Google to conduct tests until July. The tests however, cost around $300,000 and appear to be boon for Virgin Galactic Spaceflights, which has started to tumble out of monetary crisis since crushing of its prototype SpaceShipTwo vehicle in California.

© 2024 VCPOST, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics