Israeli start-up Skyfi is looking to outflank Facebook and Google in a race to provide world-wide internet access by developing the first self-correcting antenna that can turn mini-satellites into powerful transmitters covering the globe.
The two technology giants are working on ways to beam internet access from the sky to remote areas – Google with high-flying balloons and Facebook with a combination of drones and larger, more complex satellites.
But it will take an orbiting cluster of 60 miniature, or nano, satellites, each about the size of a shoe box, to provide full coverage of earth, said Raz Itzhaki Tamir, a veteran of Israel’s aerospace industry who started Skyfi four years ago.
“About 3 billion people on earth do not have access to the Internet. We are going to service all of them because our constellation using our technology will cover the entire planet, both air, sea and land,” said Tamir.
“We are going to launch 60 satellites and this will cover the entire planet,” he added.
The way he hopes to do it is by using a parachute-like antenna that deploys once in space. The antenna can then mechanically adjust itself for the imperfections in the transmitter’s own surface, allowing a stronger signal to pass, and even alter the direction it points should broadcast needs change.