Facebook successfully tests drone to improve Internet access

Posted Jul 2, 2017 by Tim Sandle
With the aim of bringing the Internet to remote parts of the world, Facebook has successfully tested out a solar powered drone called Aquila.
The Aquila drone  being tested by Facebook. Aquila’s wingspan is wider than a Boeing 737  but it w...
The Aquila drone, being tested by Facebook. Aquila’s wingspan is wider than a Boeing 737, but it weighs less than 455 kg (1,000 pounds). To stay aloft, Aquila’s solar panels collect power during the day and stores enough in a battery for the dark hours.
Aquila was tested out in a remote part of Arizona, where it successfully flew for 106 minutes. The drone spent most of the time at an altitude of 3,000 feet (Facebook ultimately plans to have the drone fly at far higher height, of 60,000 feet, which is considered optimal for Internet beaming). The launch, flying and safe landing of the drone was successful, unlike previous test where the drone crashed after a short period in flight.
The reason why the drone is being tested is help make the world an interconnected space. As Facebook's Martin Luis Gomez and Andrew Cox state: "Today 1.6 billion people live in regions that don't have access to a mobile broadband network. Connecting these remote parts of the world with existing technologies such as buried optical fiber or microwave links on towers is often cost-prohibitive."
To overcome such obstacles, Facebook is designing what will become a fleet of solar-powered aircraft called Aquila. When fully operational, these high-altitude drones will remain airborne for up to 90 days at a time. In flight the craft will beam broadband coverage to a 60-mile-wide area on the ground.
Aquila facts:
Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737.
The craft is lighter than 1,000 pounds.
It uses just about 5,000 W of power at cruising altitude, with the power collected by solar panels.
The craft can fly up to 80 miles per hour.
Aquila is designed to be operate at high, cold altitudes and lower, warmer altitudes.
According to Tech Crunch the purpose of the recent test launch was to gather data, specifically to help the Facebook's engineers to adjust the models they use to predict energy usage and optimize battery and solar system design. The flight was deemed as success, with Martin Luis Gomez telling the BBC the drone had suffered "a few minor, easily repairable dings".