Facebook Aquila Drone Takes Flight for the First TIme

The Facebook Aquila drone has successfully embarked upon its first test flight, the social network company has confirmed, with the solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle making strong strides towards its objective of bringing internet connectivity to remote areas of our planet.

Facebook is looking to use the Aquila to bring the internet to the 60% of the population that does not have access to it, with the company’s dedicated Facebook Connectivity Lab yesterday announcing that it had successfully conducted a 90-minute test flight of the drone. The drone’s wingspan is comparable to that of an airliner, so Facebook remained skeptical that it would even be able to get off the ground during its initial run. However, the Aquila reportedly did so with ease, with its planned 30-minute test flight eventually being tripled by the company.

According to Facebook’s Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure Jay Parikh, the company was able to use this test run to verify the model’s performance and components, including “aerodynamics, batteries, control systems, and crew training.” The drone utilizes on-board autopilot in order to take off, with Facebook eventually looking to let it sail the skies of its own accord, flying for a whopping three months at a time.

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Facebook’s plan is to eventually have a fleet of Aquila drones that will orbit remote, populated areas of the Earth, providing citizens with internet access in the process. Parikh stated that Aquila’s first voyage was a “low-altitude flight,” though that they will eventually have it flying above 60,000 feet.

However, there are significant hurdles blocking Facebook’s progress in this regard, with Parikh noting that in order to complete their goal they will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight in the process. This record currently stands at two weeks, which is a far cry from the three months Facebook wants the Aquila to remain in the air.

Parikh concluded that Facebook’s work has “never been more important,” concluding: “New technologies like Aquila have the potential to bring access, voice and opportunity to billions of people around the world, and do so faster and more cost-effectively than has ever been possible before.” The company hasn’t confirmed when the Aquila will next take flight, though given the success of its debut test run, it’s imaginable that it won’t be too far into the future.

[Via Facebook Newsroom]