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Facebook hires drone-making team to spread Internet around world

- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2014

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has just paid about $20 million to hire a team of drone makers in a small community in England, with hopes of developing a system that connects the world to the Internet via a complex network of drones, satellite and lasers.

About two-thirds of the world's population is still unconnected, Financial Times reported.

Mr. Zuckerberg has previously stated his desire to bring the Internet to the world — even to the most remote of places in third-world, developing nations. In the end, he gains: Facebook's 1.2 billion customer base could see even more growth and user participation, Financial Times reported.

Toward that end, the social media giant executive purchased the team behind the drone-making company Ascenta, for just under $20 million. Yet Facebook is being mum on the purchase and will not explain the inner dealings struck between the Somerset company and the Silicon Valley giant.

Company records dug up by Financial Times shows Ascenta is a five-person team under the leadership of a chief engineer named Andrew Cox, 51. Mr. Cox has a lengthy background in aerospace and defense industry work — though he now lives on a farm in Somerset with his wife, Helen, who's listed as the second director of Ascenta.

Mr. Cox helped a key British defense company develop the Zephyr drone — and to this day, that craft holds the record for the most unmanned flight hours, at 330, Financial Times reported. That two-week flight, which took place in 2010, is more than double the amount of the previous drone flight record-holder.

Ascenta changed its name from High Altitude Engineering in November.

Mr. Cox and his team are now moving from Somerset to work at Facebook's office in London's West End, Financial Times reported.

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