Facebook's internet-delivering drone under investigation by NTSB after 'accident'

The Aquila 'flying wing' seen here in better days

For years Facebook, has been looking at ways to bring internet connectivity to every part of the world. While that has generally involved partnering with local companies or providing free Wi-Fi, some of the company’s plans have been more on the “moon shot” side of things. This includes a project, first announced back in 2014, where the company wants to beam high-speed internet via high-altitude drones.

The first such drone, named Aquila, finally took flight earlier this summer in the first of many test flights designed to push the machine and Facebook’s engineering team. Though deemed to be a success at the time, a report seen by Bloomberg points to a substantial failure when Aquila tried to land. In fact, the failure was so big that the NTSB has gotten involved and issued a report on what it deemed to be an “accident”. The event was mentioned in passing back then in one of Facebook’s posts.

The Aquila is a “flying wing” design, with a huge 40-meter span designed to keep the machine airborne at very high altitudes and low air densities. The vehicle is also very light, made mostly out of carbon fiber. Facebook’s eventual goal is to keep Aquila and its successors flying for months at a time, while using solar energy to recharge in-flight and beam internet across large swathes of the world.

Given the ambition of such a project, and the dangers involved herein, it only makes sense that regulators and government authorities like the NTSB get involved from the get go, to make sure everything conforms to safety standards.

Source: Bloomberg

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