Facebook Tests Aquila Internet Drone

By Victor Thomson , Jul 22, 2016 05:51 AM EDT

Facebook has announced that the first test of its Aquila internet drone has been successfully completed at dawn, on June 28.

According to the online publication Fast Company, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a future vision of providing mobile broadband Internet connectivity for 1.6 billion people via the project Aquila.

The Facebook internet drone is a giant unmanned aircraft named Aquila that has the wingspan of a Boeing 737. On June 28, as part of the first test, the drone lifted off from an airfield in Yuma, Arizona.

The boomerang-shaped, propeller-driven aircraft has been tested during a half-hour demo flight. Everything worked so well that Facebook's Connectivity Lab has decided to extend the duration of the flight to a total of 96 minutes.

The 737-sized Aquila will fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet or more using solar power. The drone will be able to stay in the air and deliver wireless Internet for three months at a time.

Facebook's Aquila internet drone is named for an eagle in Greek mythology. The unmanned aircraft is part of company's plan to bring connectivity to parts of the developing world where internet is not available yet.

The drone has been designed by Facebook's engineers to use millimeter wave systems and laser communications in order to beam connectivity directly to people on the ground. Facebook has announced the project a year ago.

The Aquila drones weigh about 880 pounds. They use a free-space optics laser system to connect to each other. Each drone will be able to cruise while consuming just 5,000 watts and cover a diameter of about 60 miles.

The Verge reports that the first functional test flight of the Aquila internet drone has the goal to evaluate stabilizing in the air, taking off safely and flying for at least 30 minutes before landing. After the test Zuckerberg said that he had to be present because this is "an important milestone for the company, and for connecting the world."

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