Facebook, has for the first time, flown a full-scale version of its unmanned internet plane, Aquila. Until now, Facebook was using a one-fifth scale version of Aquila to run tests over the space of several months. The company says that the first test with the full-scale model was successful.
In the blog post, Jay Parikh, the Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure at Facebook writes:
“This first functional check was a low-altitude flight, and it was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes – three times longer than originally planned. We were able to verify several performance models and components, including aerodynamics, batteries, control systems, and crew training.”
In the later tests, the craft will fly “fast, higher and longer, eventually taking it above 60,000 feet.” Facebook expect to be running tests with full-scale models for “months and years.”
Aquila is Facebook's answer to Google's Project Loon. The high-altitude unmanned aircraft will fly over hard-to-reach places, powered by solar energy. When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region of 60 miles in diameter and beam connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimetre wave systems.
Facebook wants the craft to be able to fly for three months at a time, to do this, however, the company will need to break a world record which now stands at two weeks for a solar-powered unmanned flight. Facebook says this will “require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve.”
Source: Facebook Newsroom