Facebook grounds laser internet drone plans, shutting down its United Kingdom plant


The Aquila was an ambitious project started by Facebook, with the goal of bringing high-speed internet access to remote places in the world.

Facebook has ended its involvement in building internet connectivity-boosting drones in the United Kingdom over concerns about excess competition, shutting the doors of its plant in Bridgwater for good and laying off staff as a result. In the blog post, Maguire wrote that its engineering initiatives will instead focus on improving the connectivity gear that could eventually be loaded onto the aircraft involved as well as components like "flight control computers and high-density batteries".

It's hard to support Facebook as a platform recently due to the mess it has made of protecting people's privacy, but the social network does have a few projects everyone wanted to see succeed.

It aimed to build a fleet of high-altitude, solar-powered drones that had the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and weighed the same as a family vehicle.

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Facebook wanted to do this by flying drones over remote areas now lacking in internet infrastructure. But, it has been decided that Facebook's role in that broader provision of the internet would best be served without the Aquila programme.

Aquila was also created as part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative, which earlier this year Facebook said had connected some 100 million people to the internet-or rather, a heavily restricted, walled-garden version of the internet controlled by Facebook.

The company points out that the aircraft is only one aspect of the project, however; the team also had to develop millimeter-wave technology for communication, something they set records for.

The resignations came around the same time Facebook decided not to move forward with a new high-altitude drone base at Spaceport America, according to a report from Business Insider. Since the program was relatively low-cost for a company Facebook's size, the tests must have been a catastrophe.

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Aquila had run two test flights, with Facebook praising the first as a success despite a crash landing that resulted in the National Transportation Safety Board saying the aircraft was "substantially damaged".

However, in a message posted for the current week, Facebook said that since it began chipping away at the Aquila drone in 2014, various aviation organizations had started growing high-elevation air ship in view of comparative points.

Maguire says the company is also "actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the U.S. and internationally".

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