Facebook successfully completed a second full-scale test flight of its internet-beaming solar-powered drone, dubbed Aquila.
Aquila, which has been designed to provide internet access to remote parts of the world, flew for one hour and 46 minutes in Arizona.
The test was carried out in May, but details of the test were not made public until yesterday.
The drone landing “perfectly”, using its Kevlar pads bonded to the bottom of the motor pods, on the the prepared landing site – a 500 foot circle of level gravel, about 6 inches deep and with the consistency of rough sand.
The drone, which has as a wingspan of a Boeing 737, flew at an altitude of 3,000 feet – the tech giant is aiming to eventually fly the drone at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet.
When flying upwind the drone travels at 10-15 mph over the ground.
Posted by Facebook Engineering on Thursday, 29 June 2017
Facebook’s Martin Luis Gomez explained in a blog post:
We designed Aquila this way because it is meant to stay in the same area for long periods of time to supply internet access.
Aquila is solar-powered and extremely power-efficient – running on the power equivalent of three blow dryers.
Needless to say, the entire team was thrilled with these results. Connecting people through high-altitude solar-powered aircraft is an audacious goal, but milestones like this flight make the months of hard work worth it.
And what is particularly gratifying is that the improvements we implemented based on Aquila’s performance during its first test flight made a significant difference in this flight.
In the coming months, we’re excited to take the lessons from our successful second flight to continue the Aquila program’s progress to help bring the world closer together through connectivity.