Facebook drone takes maiden flight

Posted on July 26, 2016


Social networking phenomenon Facebook has recently announced that its solar-powered drone has completed its first flight.

The vehicle, known as the Aquila drone, safely landed back into the possession of researchers after completing a 90-minute test flight over Arizona, US. Officials at the company were pleased with this news and have labelled it as a “big milestone” in its ambitions to providing internet connections to all areas of the globe.

The Aquila drone is an unmanned, solar-powered object that has been designed to circle designated areas of up to 60 miles to provide internet access to the found million people who live in remote areas of the world that are yet to gain internet access.

To do this, the drone beams down a signal from a height of around 60,000 feet using a combination of lasers and wave systems. This technology was developed by Ascenta, a company based in Somerset that specialises in solar-powered drone technology, which Facebook actually bought back in 2014 in a deal worth around £12.5 million.

It was in that year that Facebook first announced this ambitious project, claiming that it wanted to provided internet access to the areas making up the 15% of the world that doesn’t have it, in order to push them in the same direction as the rest of the world, which uses the internet several times a day.

Facebook does realise that this plan is extremely ambitious and has been conducting research around the topic for nearly two years. The current world record for the longest flight of a solar-powered and unmanned drone stands at just two weeks.

This first test flight is also the first time the company has tested one at full scale. All previous tests had been conducted using smaller drones at about one-fifth of the size of Aquila.

Now that the first test flight of Aquila has been completed, the company will administer a series of other tests that will see the drone pushed to fly higher and faster than before. The drone features a carbon fibre frame and is named after an eagle from Greek mythology – Aquila, thought to carry the thunderbolts of the god Jupiter. As well as this, the drone has a wingspan similar to a Boeing 737, but weighs in much lighter at 400kg.

Other tests that engineers will need to work on include powering it with enough sunlight, creating a light, high-energy battery and ensuring that it remains to be an economically viable alternative to traditional methods of providing internet access.

As ambitious as this project sounds, Facebook is not the only tech firm attempting a mission to get more areas of the world connected to the internet; Californian search giant Google is also testing something similar. Its Project Loon is attempting to beam internet connections to parts of rural Asia using giant space balloons as opposed to the drones of Facebook.

Operations Manager at Engage Web
Drawing from a broad pool of experience that ranges from university studies in English Language to his work as a medical receptionist in a busy GP practice, Alan fits right at home as Engage Web’s Operations Manager.
Alan Littler
  • […] connectivity to the more remote areas of the globe. Last summer, it managed to complete the first test flight of one of these drones, but it crashed on landing. As far as is public knowledge, the company will […]

  • […] announced back in 2016 that the drone had taken its first successful test flight over Arizona, being airborne for 90 […]

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