Facebook completes first full-scale test flight of Aquila, a solar-powered high altitude unmanned aircraft


A social media giant is taking to the skies in an effort to connect the world to the Internet.

Facebook is announcing the successful completion of the first full-scale test flight of Aquila, the company’s high-altitude, solar-powered, unmanned aircraft.

Although Facebook has been researching the use of drones for some time now, the 90-minute long test completed on June 28, 2016 marks the program’s most significant recent development.

Aquila Photo courtesy: Facebook
Photo Courtesy: Facebook

An excerpt from a post released today and written by Facebook’s Jay Parikh, the company’s Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure, reads as follows:

“When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts — the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave.”

All of the power behind the Aquila is central to Facebook’s goal of bringing all that the Internet has to offer – wirelessly – to the fingertips of the 1.6 billion people it says are not connected with the rest of the world.  Those who may say that the entire world may not want to be connected to the Internet are not presenting any hurdles to Facebook’s connectivity initiative.  The company believes that the use of drones that could facilitate Internet service to so many has, according to Parikh, “the potential to bring access, voice and opportunity to billions of people around the world.”

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the program’s launch in 2014.  In a public post on his personal Facebook page he posted a statement which included the following:

In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky.  Today, we’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.  Our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.

The full post is below:

Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg March 27, 2014

While the technology is being perfected there are others who are working on the politics of Facebook’s program. Company officials have begun the process of working with governments and political entities to permit the drones in the skies over those who are – for the time being at least – still unconnected.

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