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article imageFacebook Internet drone Aquila completes first test flight

By Lucky Malicay     Jul 22, 2016 in Internet
Facebook’s goal to deliver Internet service to far-flung places took another step closer to reality following the successful test flight of its solar-powered Aquila drone.
“The internet provides information, opportunity and human connection, yet less than half the world has access. We’re proud to announce the successful first test flight of Aquila, the solar airplane we designed to bring internet access to people living in remote locations,” Facebook announced on its Facebook page.
“This innovative plane has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a small car and flies on roughly the power of three blow dryers — incredible!”
The latest flight used the full-scale aircraft, unlike the previous ones that used only a one-fifth scale version of the Aquila.
With a wingspan greater than a 737 passenger jet, the drone flew over the Arizona air for over 96 minutes during the test flight on June 28.
"It was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes -- three times longer than originally planned," said Jay Parikh, Facebook's global head of engineering and infrastructure.
"We're encouraged by this first successful flight, but we have a lot of work ahead of us."
The drone will send out Internet signals up to 60 miles away when it will eventually fly for weeks as part of Facebook's drive to bring Internet service to remote areas around the world.
"In fact, to reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at a time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, a feat that currently stands at two weeks," Parikh said.
"This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve. It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they'll be most effective."
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hailed the latest success as a result of years of engineering, posting a video of the flight on his Facebook page.
“After two years of engineering, I'm proud to announce the successful first flight of Aquila -- the solar-powered plane we designed to beam internet to remote parts of the world. Here's the video from our first flight,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebok page.
Aquila has been one of the projects of the company’s Connectivity Lab, which aims to develop ways to make Internet access possible “through a variety of technologies that include high-altitude long-endurance planes, satellites and lasers.”
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