Facebook internet drone passes first full-scale test

Flying Aquila

As many as 4 billion people are believed to be without internet connectivity and over 1.6 billion of them live in remote locations. In this first flight, the scientists at Facebook tested the stability and reach of the Aquila drone.

Facebook’s goal to bring internet to the world came one step closer on Thursday.

The first flight took place on 28 June in Arizona. A successful test flight is judged as a third of that, so Facebook’s creation passed with flying colors. At 60,000 feet, it should be able to loiter using about 5,000 W of power – about as much as three hair dryers. But that’s in “two or more years”, according to Jay Parikh, Facebook’s Vice President of Infrastructure Engineering.

The Aquila drone has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a auto.

“In our next tests, we will fly Aquila faster, higher and longer, eventually taking it above 60,000ft”.

“It was an incredible moment in my life to be standing there watching as Aquila lifted off the dolly and into the sky at dawn”, writes Yael Maguire of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, the team behind Aquila.

One of the most important results of the test was that the aircraft acted as simulations expected.

The company’s solution is the Aquila, a high-altitude unmanned aircraft that circles an area 60 miles in diameter (for up to three months without landing) from an altitude of 60,000.

Parikh concluded: “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”. “I’m excited to see what we can do next”.

“This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve”.

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