Facebook Inc (FB) Aquila Internet Drone Completes Successful Test Flight


Just after dawn on 22 May, the second full-scale test flight of the drone took place and the aircraft flew for one hour and 46 minutes before making a ideal landing.

Facebook debuted its drone project in 2015, and pitched it as a way for the company to eventually beam the Internet down to areas in the world where people lack web-connectivity. The test was conducted on May 22 in Yuma, Arizona and lasted for one hour and 46 minutes.

The plane has a smoother finish and a horizontal propeller-stopping mechanism was added to support a successful landing. The plane is huge - bigger than a Boeing 747 - and can hopefully stay aloft for months at a time at very high altitudes.

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Aquila was modified considerably since its first flight past year. In this test flight, "only one propeller [out of four] locked horizontally", as it should have, Gomez wrote. The takeoff in May was normal, according to Facebook, and climbed at a rate twice as fast as the original test flight.

This second voyage for Aquila was also all about gathering data, specifically to help the team adjust the models they use to predict energy usage and optimize battery and solar system design, based on real-world data. We also undertook extensive instrumentation of the airplane's structure, adding hundreds of sensors to the aircraft to understand how Aquila's shape responds to flight in real-time. The craft has no landing gear and lands on Kevlar pads attached to the motor pods.

When landing, the Aquila follows a three degrees path - or glideslope - and it came to a stop in about 10 metres, taking advantage of drag, the staunch ally of landing. More importantly, Facebook claims the drone "landed perfectly". The successful take-off and landing marks progress for the technology company, as the first time Aquila took to the skies not everything went entirely to plan.

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Aquila reaching an altitude of 3,000 feet for its second test flight is a sign that Facebook is likely years away from reaching its intended goal.

The team plans on using the lessons learned in the second flight to continue tweaking the almost 900 pound (408 kg), carbon fiber aircraft.

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