Facebook is making a helicopter drone that delivers internet during disasters

A massive part of Facebook's long-term plan to "build community" is to connect the world with the internet. From routers to drone planes, Facebook has done just about everything to deliver on that promise, but today it introduced one more method.

The social network is developing a small helicopter drone called Tether-tenna, designed to deliver internet when infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, such as during a natural disaster. 

Some infrastructure fiber must still be operational so Tether-tenna has something to connect to. Once tethered, the 'copter will create a virtual tower by soaring a few hundred feet into the sky. Facebook refers to this as "insta-infrastructure," a system that can be rigged in a hurry to restore connectivity to an affected area.

"When completed, this technology will be able to be deployed immediately and operate for months at a time to bring back connectivity in case of an emergency — ensuring the local community can stay connected while the in-ground connectivity is under repair," wrote Facebook's Yael Maguire in a blog post.

Tether-tenna in action

Tether-tenna in action

Facebook's hope is to have Tether-tenna operate autonomously for long stretches of time, and while the helicopter is still in the early stages, the technology seems to be progressing along nicely. 

A few years ago, it may have seemed absurd for Facebook to develop a drone plane, let alone a helicopter, to beam down internet, but now it's par for the course for the social network to experiment with new technologies in its never-ending quest to connect the world. 

This may the latest, but it certainly won't be the last time we hear about Facebook's internet-delivering ambitions.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.