Facebook ends internet-providing drone project

Posted on July 3, 2018

 

Social networking giant Facebook has recently announced that it has ended its interest in plans to build drones that would deliver internet access to the four corners of the globe.

In the past couple of years, the company had made one of its objectives to build solar-powered drones that would fly at high altitudes and provide internet access to countries where internet access was still relatively remote. It would now seem that these plans have been discarded.

The drone was named Aquila, and was initially created by Andrew Cox, a British aerospace engineer, who worked for a company named Ascenta, which was acquired by Facebook back in 2014 for a sum of $20m (£15m).

After the acquisition, Ascenta was merged into Facebook’s Internet.org project, which was the arm of the network that was to focus on achieving the goal of connecting the whole planet to the internet. The drone was to fly at altitudes higher than commercial aeroplanes and would relay internet signals through laser beams to base-stations situated on the ground.

Facebook has now said that it will no longer be constructing its own aircraft. According to the director of engineering at Facebook, Yael Maguire, the decision was made by a growing interest in this field from other aerospace firms, which would leave Facebook’s efforts redundant.

However, Maguire did say in a blog post that the company would continue to work with partners such as Airbus on high altitude platform stations, also known as Haps, and other technology needed to ensure these are successful.

This news comes just a matter of days after a story from the Business Insider suggested that Cox had left his role at Facebook last month. Aquila’s time at Facebook was believed to be mixed. Maguire said that it had two successful test flights, but Facebook did receive criticism for trying to cover up the success of a test flight believed to have crashed.

Facebook announced back in 2016 that the drone had taken its first successful test flight over Arizona, being airborne for 90 minutes.

This is not the first time that a company with these objectives has seen its attempts scuppered. Last year, Alphabet – the company that owns Google – closed down its own version of internet providing drones, Project Titan, as it wanted to focus on another project that had a similar aim. This was Project Loon, a high-powered balloon tasked with providing internet access.

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