Google is working in secret at a spaceport in New Mexico to build and test solar-powered internet drones in a new initiative codenamed Project SkyBender, according to a report from The Guardian. The company is reportedly renting 15,000 square feet of hangar space from Virgin Galactic — the commercial spaceflight outfit of business mogul Richard Branson — at the privately owned Spaceport America located near a town called Truth or Consequences. The lynchpin of Project SkyBender appears to be cutting-edge millimeter wave technology, which can transmit gigabits of data every second at speeds up to 40 times faster than modern 4G LTE.
Millimeter waves are thought to be the future of high-speed data transmission technology, and may form the backbone of 5G mobile networks. Aereo founder Chet Kanojia‘s new startup Starry announced earlier this week it would use millimeter wave tech to bring gigabit internet speeds to people’s homes via Wi-Fi. Millimeter waves have much shorter range than current smartphone signals and are easily disrupted by weather conditions like rain, fog, and snow. Using what’s called a phased array, however, Google and others could potentially focus the transmissions over greater distances.