Facebook Is One Step Closer To Taking Over The World
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Politics and Activism

Facebook Is One Step Closer To Taking Over The World

You could say that Project Aquila is "taking off"

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Facebook Is One Step Closer To Taking Over The World
Facebook

Facebook’s plan to connect millions of people in developing countries is making headway. It’s called Project Aquila and it involves building solar powered aircraft which will fly above remote places and beam down an internet connection.

Two years ago, Facebook acquired a small British company called Ascenta, whose specialty is solar powered drones, and Ascenta’s owner, Andy Cox, is now the engineer running Project Aquila.

At the end of June this year, construction of the first drone, Aquila, was completed. Then it was promptly disassembled and transported to a military airfield near Yuma, Arizona where it was reassembled for its first flight.

Aquila is an unmanned aircraft with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 but, because it’s made of carbon fiber, it weighs only a third of the weight of a typical family car. The drone operates by an on-board autopilot computer which controls its flight pattern, landing sequences, and navigation through winds and other obstacles.

In Arizona, the drone was launched off of a trailer that was towed down the airstrip by a truck. When the truck reached full speed, Aquila’s on-board computer disconnected the straps that held it to the trailer and was launched into flight. It flew for a total of 96 minutes and landed in a stony field some way short of the runway. Although Aqulia did suffer some damage upon its landing in the stones, overall it outperformed expectations.

Initially, engineers expected the flight to last about 30 minutes, just enough time to navigate some winds and other turbulence. But, things were going well enough that they extended the flight, allowing engineers to gather more information on the drone’s four motors, autopilot system, batteries, and radios.


Andy Cox says that although the first flight was a success, there’s still quite a long way to go. The drone is expected to eventually fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet above the ground, which will put it above weather and above conventional air traffic, for a period of up to three months.

Right now, the record for longest flight by a solar powered aircraft is just two weeks, so Project Aquila’s engineers still have quite a long way to go. They will need to figure out how to strategically add solar panels to the aircraft without sacrificing its aerodynamic shape and without adding too much extra weight.

The goal of Project Aquila is very similar to the goal of Facebook itself: to connect everyone. And, according to Facebook’s global head of engineering, Jay Parikh, Aquila is just one of a number of technologies that Facebook is developing to forward that goal.

Facebook itself is not looking to supply the internet connection, though, just the means to transport it. Once the drone is completed, they plan to open up the design to local internet providers across the world.

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