Commercial, Military

Facebook Flies Aquila UAV, Looks to Future Engineering Challenges

By Juliet Van Wagenen | July 22, 2016
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Facebook Aquila First Flight

Facebook’s Aquila’s first flight. Photo: Facebook

Facebook has announced its first successful flight of the Aquila unmanned aerial vehicle, the company’s solar-powered plane that aims to beam internet to remote parts of the world. The flight took place June 28 in Yuma, Arizona.

According to a release penned by Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook page, the original mission was to fly Aquila for 30 minutes, but things went so well that the company decided to keep the plane in the air for 96 minutes. Zuckerberg says the company gathered data about its models and the aircraft structure, “and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground.”

“But as big as this milestone is, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Zuckerberg in his note. “Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time — something that’s never been done before.”

To get there, Zuckerberg said the company is looking to solve some difficult engineering challenges including issues with the aircraft’s weight, power, control, speed, load and communications.

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