Google Project Titan

Google aims to Deliver 5G Speeds with Project Skybender Drones

January 30, 2016 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Only a couple of months after registering its latest drone models, Google is already experimenting with entirely new aircraft at Spaceport America in New Mexico, according to reports. However, these aren’t ordinary drones – they’re solar-powered flyers with Internet connectivity which are allegedly designed to deliver high-speed Internet to remote locations. This unique initiative aptly codenamed Project SkyBender has apparently started last summer when Google built several of these high-tech drones and is now in the process of testing them. The entire initiative is based in Spaceport America where Google rented 15,000 square feet of hangar space from the multi-billionaire Richard Branson for the purposes of housing their latest drones and related technology while also setting up its own flight control center on site.

The crucial aspect of Project SkyBender is the so-called millimeter-wave radio transmissions technology capable of transmitting gigabits of data per second at speeds that are up to 40 times as fast as the ones currently supported by 4G LTE networks. In other words, SkyBender drones could surpass even the telecommunications providers’ expectations from 5G wireless systems. Of course, this is all theoretical, but that’s why Google is on the ground, or better said in the air testing how millimeter-wave technology works in practice. The main test subject of Project SkyBender is the solar-powered drone called Centaur which was made by the Google Titan division last summer. While it’s unknown for how long has Centaur been airborne, it is confirmed that the testing will continue at least until July when Google’s current deal with FCC that permits it to experiment with its latest high-tech aircraft comes to an end.

Regardless of the final results of Project AirBender, it is still unclear how exactly does it fit in Google’s future plans regarding drones and Internet provision, though given how young the entire initiative is, chances are neither does Google. Naturally, this is certainly not an aimless endeavor, but as the tech giant has frequently demonstrated in the past, it is more than willing to both cut its losses and repurpose its innovations, so only time will tell if and how will Project AirBender impact future products and services. Right now, the experiment is formally a part of the Google Access division that’s also overseeing creations such as Project Loon, a giant balloon-turned-cell-tower aimed at bringing Internet access to developing countries, so it can at least be presumed that’s roughly what the company also plans to do with AirBender.