Facebook’s latest long term plan for a solar powered drone to provide worldwide internet access to even the most remote locations has taken a step forward after completing its first test flight in Arizona, almost a year since the first attempt that ended in a crash.
Aquila has been designed to ‘beam’ connectivity to the 4 billion people in places that can’t support the typical infrastructure needed to provide web connections. The drone flew with more sensors, new spoilers and a horizontal propeller stopping system to help it better land after the crash in December.
It was in the air for an hour and 46 minutes and reached 3,000ft, but when complete it is said to be able to reach more than 60,000ft, circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter and aims to fly for up to three months at a time. To achieve these goals it will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which will require significant advancements in science and engineering.
Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, has stated “this work has never been more important. New technologies like Aquila have the potential to bring access, voice and opportunity to billions of people around the world, and do so faster and more cost-effectively than has ever been possible before.”