Facebook has ambitious growth plans, which even includes beaming down the internet in underdeveloped areas that lack proper telecom infrastructure. And the good news on this front is that the giant internet-beaming drone Aquila has just completed its second successful test flight, raising hope for its commercial application sometime soon.
Facebook stated the flight culminated in a safe landing which was as per their plans. This can be considered an important milestone gave that the first flight had crash-landed, prompting an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigation than had revealed extensive damage incurred in the basic structure of the drone.
None of that got repeated in the second flight which the officials said incorporates a host of changes introduced as per lessons learnt during the first flight. There were still a few hiccups encountered though, like one of the propellers didn’t lock horizontally as was intended even though the reaming three did. So that did cause some damage to the propellers. All the propellers, however, stopped just at the precise moment they were intended to.
The drone, however, does not have any landing gear as such. That essentially means the aircraft is inherently designed to have a soft crash landing, which is exactly what the Aquila’s second flight culminated in. Facebook though stated the landing surface was graveled to minimize damage. The aircraft too suffered only minor abrasions which are easily repairable.
The latest flight, however, was conducted on May 22 with the solar powered drone remaining airborne for a total of 1 hour and 46 mins. That is nowhere near its ultimate goal, that of remaining airborne for three months at a time while providing consistent and reliable internet connectivity over a 60-mile wide patch of earth.
Those again are lofty goals by any means and Facebook too hasn’t committed to any time frame for the actual launch of the aircraft. With global connectivity being prioritized off late, it remains to be seen if ground based solutions emerge earlier than Aquila.