12:26 Jul. 22, 2016
Aquila takes a first flight in mission to provide Internet access to remote areas
Social media giant Facebook announced Thursday the first successful flight of its unmanned solar-powered aircraft — the Aquila drone. The ambitious project hopes to bring the internet to remote parts of the world by beaming down internet connections, International Business Times reports.
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Aquila was developed at a warehouse in Bridgwater, Somerset, in England by U.K.-based Ascenta, a drone designer that specializes in solar-powered drones. Facebook bought Ascenta in March 2014 and its owner Andy Cox is now the engineer behind Project Aquila.
The aircraft is expected to use new laser-beam technology to provide access to fast internet for people in a 60-mile radius as it circles the area above. The signal it emits will be received by the antennas of small towers and dishes on the ground, which will convert the signal into Wi-Fi or 4G networks.
Today we're proud to announce the first test flight of Aquila — it flies on roughly the power of three blowdryers! pic.twitter.com/qN8U5kj4uf— Facebook (@facebook) July 21, 2016
According to Facebook, the drone's wingspan is wider than a Boeing 737, but because of its carbon fiber composition, it weighs less than 1,000 pounds — almost the same as a grand piano or a car. Its power consumption stands at about 5,000 watts, which is roughly the same as three hairdryers. Facebook is making attempts to refine the current model by making it even lighter and more energy efficient.