Facebook Inc said on Thursday it had completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet.
Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook. The company ultimately hopes to have a fleet of Aquilas that can fly for at least three months at a time at 60,000 feet, and communicate with each other to deliver internet access.
Alphabet Inc has also poured money into delivering internet ac cess to underserved areas through Project Loon, which aims to use a network of high altitude balloons to make the internet available to remote parts of the world.
Yael Maguire, Facebook’s engineering director and head of its Connectivity Lab, said the company initially hoped Aquila would fly for 30 minutes. “We’re thrilled about what happened with our first flight,” he said, “There are still a lot of technical challenges that need to be addressed for us to achieve the whole mission.”
He said he hoped the system might be brought into service “in the near future”.
Zuckerberg laid out the company’s biggest challenges in flying a fleet of Aquilas, including making the plane lighter so it can fly for longer periods, and creating communications networks that allow it to rapidly transfer data and accurately beam down lasers to provide internet connections. Maguire said Aquila will go through several more test flights and hopes it will soon break the world record for the longest solar powered unmanned aircraft flight, which currently stands at two weeks.
Facebook has invested billions of dollars in getting more people online, through Free Basics -which offers a pared-down version of the internet to poor areas -and by building drones.
SOURCE : The Times of India (Delhi)