Monday, 17 July 2017

Facebook's Aquila drone completes its second flight – and manages to land safely this time

Facebook has reached its latest milestone in the bid to provide internet to even the most remote locations of the globe.Its Connectivity Lab has completed the second full-scale test flight of the firm's Aquila high-altitude aircraft, almost a year since the first, and, more importantly, it made its first safe landing following a crash last year that saw it take severe damage under windy conditions.Aquila is a solar-powered plane designed to 'beam' Norton Customer Service connectivity to places that can't support the typical infrastructure needed to provide web connections. When complete, it will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity from an altitude of more than 60,00ft using laser communications and millimetre wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper-efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts — the same amount as three hairdryers, or a high-end microwave.
Facebook yesterday announced the drone's successful May 22 flight, detailing modifications made to stabilise the plane under challenging conditions and confirming that "the aircraft flew for 1 hour and 46 minutes, and landed perfectly on our prepared landing site".
"Internet access can offer life-changing opportunities and experiences to all of us, but there are still 4 billion people without it," said Jay Parikh, Facebook's global head of engineering and infrastructure in a blog post.

The first functional check last July was a low-altitude flight and the aircraft flew for more than 90 minutes — three times longer than Facebook said it had originally planned. Parikh continued that this meant his team could verify and check aerodynamics, batteries, control systems, and crew training.

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