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Facebook reveals its Internet drones will be the size of jumbo jets

Earlier this year, Facebook revealed that it was developing a drone project with the aim of providing Internet access in the developing world.

While information was sketchy, the social network has now revealed a number of new details surrounding its ambitious project.

Read more: Google reveals Project Wing, drone deliveries to rival Amazon Prime Air (opens in new tab)

At the Social Good Summit this week, the leader of Facebook's Connectivity Lab, Yael Maguire revealed some interesting facts about the drones themselves. In an interview with Mashable CEO Peter Cashmore, Maguire said that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would need to fly for years at high altitude, "above all airspace." This would place the drones at a height of around 60,000 to 90,000 feet.

The joint initiative, which is also being driven by (opens in new tab) has already looked into solar powered technology that would allow the drones to remain airborne for up to five years without refuelling.

Perhaps the most surprising reveal came when Maguire confirmed the size of the drones, which would have to be "roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747." This would dwarf the size of any of the existing drone projects, including Google's Project Wing.

The interview also revealed that Facebook ultimately sees one pilot controlling "up to 100" of the Internet-carrying planes at any one time stating, "We can't have one person per plane if we want to figure out how to connect the world."

Currently, there is a three to five year window for deploying the UAVs, but the social network hopes to launch a test flight next year. However, it remains to be seen how governments around the world will react to the plans.

Read more: House of Lords to debate letting swarms of drones descend on the UK (opens in new tab)

Currently, there are a lot of regulatory disagreements over the use of the drones, and these disputes are only going to get more complicated with Facebook's proposal for 100 jumbo jet –sized craft being flown by a single pilot.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.