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Facebook Internet Drone ‘Aquila’ Ready for Testing

By 24/7 Staff / / July 30th, 2015


Facebook Internet Drone ‘Aquila’ Ready for Testing - Supply Chain 24/7

Facebook shows-off the enormous solar-powered plane that may someday beam Internet to isolated communities.



Facebook Internet Drone ‘Aquila’ Ready for Testing - Supply Chain 24/7

Facebook has announced that it has completed building its first full-scale solar-powered drone that may someday beam Internet to isolated communities.

The Aquila (Latin for “eagle”) is now complete and ready for flight testing, the company said.

The plane will weigh about 880 pounds (400 kg), said Yael Maguire, the company’s engineering director of connectivity. It will hover between 60,000 feet and 90,000 feet (20 and 30 km), above the altitude of commercial airplanes, so that it is not affected by problematic weather.

“Our mission is to connect everybody in the world,” said Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering. “This is going to be a great opportunity for us to motivate the industry to move faster on this technology.”

The drone, which was built in 14 months, is able to fly in the air for 90 days at a time, Maguire said. Helium balloons will be attached to the plane and float it up into the air. The drones have a wingspan of 42 meters (46 yards).

Facebook 'Aquila' Internet Drone Ready for Testing Later This Year
Facebook designed and built this carbon-fiber drone, called Aquila, to bring Internet connectivity not served by today’s communications infrastructure

Because the planes must constantly move to stay aloft, they will circle a three-km (two-mile) radius, Parikh said. During the day, they will float up to 90,000 feet (30 km) and at night will drift down to 60,000 feet (20 km) to conserve energy.

The drones are part of a program (Aquila) which is geared toward the 10 percent of the population that does not have any Internet access, executives said.

Separately, Facebook a year ago launched, an initiative to provide Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that do not have a reliable connection.

Parikh said Facebook is not planning to sell the drones but will use them to expand Internet access.

Although Facebook does not immediately face policy or legal hurdles in testing its drone in the United States, Maguire said, it is the first company to fly at such altitudes. It has a team working with policymakers to help set guidelines. - 24/7 Support including Chat


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