Facebook’s Giant Solar-Powered Drone Makes its Maiden Flight

July 25, 2016, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Facebook’s dream of providing internet access to over 4 billion people in the world is finally taking shape pragmatically. Aquila, the company’s giant internet drone, has just made its maiden successful test flight, surging the hope for a better internet-connected world in the near future.

Facebook announced its massive internet drone program during March, 2015 in their F8 conference. The following period witnessed a series of miniature drones being flung into the air. However, it was for the first time that Facebook has tested the full-sized massive internet drone in the air.

The test flight, which was conducted on June 28 at an airfield in Yuma, Arizona, had the Aquila making a flight of 3-hours long, which was three times more than what Facebook had in mind for the debut test. But it was only on Thursday, July 21, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to reveal the news to the world through a video uploaded through his social media account.

Facebook flight

The full-sized Aquila features a wingspan of measurements equal to that of a Boeing 737, and will be able to fly at altitudes of between 60,000-90,000 for a period of three months without having to make a touchdown. The massive internet drone is fuelled by solar power.

Aquila weighs about 880 pounds, and relies on a laser system called free-space optics to communicate with each other. A single drone is expected to cover a region of diameter 60 miles. Despite being massively sized and weighing 880 pounds, Aquila consumes only 5,000 watts of power for its single stretch operation, and that is only the power consumed by a top-end microwave, or three hair dryers.

Aquila is still having many more works to be done before it gets on with the fully-fledged working, and that might take some more years, says the company. Facebook is still working on making the drone even lighter. Alongside, the company also considers improving its automation technology to curb down its dependence on the ground crew.

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