Facebook Solar Drone Aquila first flight (Arizona)

Facebook has made a big step towards the Internet for all. Yesterday, the solar drone Aquila graduated its first real flight. This remained the drone equal to 96 minutes in the air. Three times longer than planned.

Thats really good news for some 1.5 billion people on the Earth without any Internet access: the Facebook drone Aquila yesterday, on July 21, 2016, first test flight more than successfully completed. She bring the Internet in regions in the future, where it is too expensive to lay the infrastructure.

Solar drone Aquila on the runway. Photo: Facebook

Aquila will be on the road at a height between 18 to 28 km. The drone is pulled up by a helium balloon. At night, the drone on flight altitude of 18 km down falls to save energy.

Aquila moves are always above the cruising flight altitude providing 10 gigabits per second link

The solar drone pulls their cars within a 100 km radius and supplies the area under its body with fast Internet access. The Internet connection ensures the drone of laser communication. The laser can transmit data at a speed of 10 gigabits per second and is extremely accurate. According to Facebook, he meets a cents coin from a distance of about 16 km.

Since 2015 experiments runs with a smaller model

Since last year, Facebook experimented with an Aquila model on a scale of 1:5. The first flight in original size took place on June 28, 2016 at the military test site in the desert of Yuma, Arizona, United States.

Solar drone Aquila oin air. Photo: Facebook

Aquila has the wingspan of a jumbo jet with 42 m, weighs, but with full communication equipment only 400 kg equipped thanks to the construction of carbon fabric fiber reinforced plastic. It’s as little as a subcompact car. Aquila is a flying wing without trolley. The successful test flight launched the drone of a trolley.

Low power consumption

Aquila is powered by four electric propellers, for their drive, the drone of solar cells, which are mounted on the top of the wing refers to the stream. The drone will consume only about 5 kWh of electricity at cruising speed, about as much as three hair dryers. In later real use, Aquila can remain in the air for three months. Until then, it’s still a long way off: first Aquila must break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, who plays currently for two weeks.

The now completed test flight on a military base in Arizona, Aquila remained exactly 96 minutes in the air. “The test was so successful that Aquila flew three times longer than originally planned,” Facebook engineering Chief Jay Parikh rejoiced. “We are encouraged, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Zuckerberg with Jay Parikh
Makes it easier, because everything works: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with Jay Parikh, global Director for technology and infrastructure, as well as the technical project manager Kathryn Cook and Yael Maguire, head of connectivity (from left to right)
Photo: Facebook

During the test flight, Aquila reached a cruising altitude of well 650m and 2 kWh of electricity consumed. The L’Aquila team of Facebook was unable to verify the performance of various components such as batteries, aerodynamics, and control systems.

Mobile Internet natural disasters

The drone project is part of the initiative of Facebook and other companies want to provide access to the Internet all people. Sure, Facebook end of March 2014 for $ 20 million had taken over the British aviation company Ascenta. With drones like Aquila, it should be faster possible to bring Internet into regions where some disaster. So can faster help be arranged and the assistance operations can be controlled better.