Face­book drone could one day pro­vide global in­ter­net ac­cess

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

A so­lar-pow­ered drone backed by Face­book that could one day pro­vide world­wide in­ter­net ac­cess has qui­etly com­pleted a test flight in Ari­zona af­ter an ear­lier at­tempt ended with a crash land­ing. Face­book founder Mark Zucker­berg’s long-term plan for the drone, called Aquila, is to have it and oth­ers pro­vide in­ter­net ac­cess to 4 bil­lion peo­ple around the world who are cur­rently in the dark.

“When Aquila is ready, it will be a fleet of so­lar­pow­ered planes that will beam in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity across the world,” he wrote Thurs­day on Face­book. The drone’s sec­ond flight was com­pleted in May at Yuma Prov­ing Ground, The Yuma Sun re­ported.

The drone flew with more sen­sors, new spoil­ers and a hor­i­zon­tal pro­pel­ler stop­ping sys­tem to help it bet­ter land af­ter the crash in De­cem­ber. It was in the air for an hour and 46 min­utes and el­e­vated 3,000 feet (910 me­ters).

The drone flew with the en­gi­neer­ing team watch­ing a live stream from a he­li­copter chas­ing the drone, said Martin Luis Gomez, Face­book’s direc­tor of aero­nau­ti­cal plat­forms. The team was thrilled with the out­come, Gomez said. “The im­prove­ments we im­ple­mented based on Aquila’s per­for­mance dur­ing its first test flight made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in this flight,” he said.

The drone weighs about 1,000 pounds (450 kilo­grams) and has a longer wing­span than a Boe­ing 747. The drone runs mostly on au­topi­lot, but there are manned ground crews to man­age cer­tain ma­neu­vers. —AP

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