Facebook’s solar-powered drone Aquila that will beam Internet down to the estimated four billion people worldwide, has successfully completed the second full-scale test flight, the social networking site said on Friday. Aquila’s second flight, which occurred on May 22, took off just after dawn and lasted for an hour and 46 minutes. Aquila then landed perfectly on the prepared landing site. The drone’s first flight that took off on June 28 last year had experienced a structural failure just seconds before the landing that resulted in additional damage to the right wing.
“During the second flight, the launch speed of the drone was calculated to be at 27 mph. It rose to 3,000 feet, at a rate of 180 ft/min — a climb rate that was nearly twice as that of the first test flight,” Martin Luis Gomez from Facebook wrote in the post. “We designed Aquila this way because it is meant to stay in the same area for long periods of time to supply internet access. Aquila is solar-powered and extremely power-efficient — running on the power equivalent of three blow dryers,” the post read.
In advance of the second flight, Facebook also incorporated a number of modifications to Aquila. It included adding “spoilers” to the wings, which help to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach; incorporating hundreds of sensors to gather new data; modifying the autopilot software; integrating new radios for the communication subsystem, applying a smoother finish on the plane and installing a horizontal propeller stopping mechanism to support a successful landing.
“Over the next year we’re going to keep testing Aquila — flying higher and longer, and adding more planes and payloads. It’s all part of our mission to connect the world and help more of the four billion people who are not online access all the opportunities of the internet,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had earlier written in a post.