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.