Facebook Dumps Its Drone Program

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Buried in a report written by an executive in Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ: FB) Connectivity Lab was a statement that it would dump its drone program. Since the program was relatively inexpensive for a company Facebook’s size, the tests must have been a catastrophe.

The report, titled “High altitude connectivity: The next chapter,” lays out the global problem that 4 million people do not have access to the internet. Other large tech companies have tried to address the same problem, partially for selfless reasons and partially because they want to be able to sell more of their products and services. In Facebook’s case, more connectivity could drive its membership of 2.2 billion active users much higher.

Facebook not only lays out details of the global internet problem but also discusses initiatives to solve it. Then it says its own efforts are over but that it will continue to work within the industry, though it is not clear how. The blog post about the decision reads in part:

As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft. Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater.

The drone business in and of itself is not overly complicated. The infrastructure needed to wire most of the world obviously is. It is a bad sign that Facebook has given up because it leaves mostly much smaller companies to solve the problem. That means the problem won’t be solved soon at all.