Facebook has announced that its Aquila carbon fibre drone, which has been created to beam internet from the sky to the ground has recently completed it’s first full-scale test flight.
The aim of the solar-powered drone is to fly for up to three months at a time, circling over remote destinations to provide internet connectivity using laser-based network and radio signals with a range of up to 60 miles.
Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, but has to weigh as little as possible to stay up for as long as possible. That’s why the body of the plane is made of a carbon fibre composite so the whole thing weighs less than 1,000 pounds.
On June 28th, Facebook completed the first successful flight which took place before dawn in Yuma, Arizona. The plane was airborne for 96 minutes while researchers gathered data from the ground. During the test flight, cruising at an altitude of 2150 feet, the Aquila only consumed 2000 watts of power.
Data gathered in the first flight found that the design was much more efficient than Facebook’s connectivity labs has first thought. A second test flight is imminent and will include the bulk of the communications equipment. Eventually Facebook plans to let the drone fly up at altitudes above 60,000 feet plus.