Aquila, Facebook’s solar-powered drone, has just carried out its maiden flight. It took off on the 28th June from the American military base in Yuma, Arizona. This solar powered drone flew for more than an hour and a half at an altitude of over 2,100 feet.
Facebook’s goal is to create a network of solar-powered drones that would be placed at very high altitude (between 11 and 16 miles), would fly over 90 mph and serve as internet relays for geographic areas that have been out of range so far. Today, 60% of the world’s population - in other words 4 billion people - do not have access to the web.
The drone will be able to fly completely autonomously for three months. By day, the cells recharge the batteries, which will then enable it to fly by night.
Aquila is undeniably similar to the Swiss aircraft Solar Impulse – minus the pilot. It has an impressive frame – the wingspan is wider than that of a Boeing 737 (nearly 112 ft) but weighs a hundred times less thanks to its carbon fibre frame. To develop Aquila, Facebook called upon aeronautical and space experts who had worked for NASA, Boeing, the DARPA, Northropp Grumman and even the British Air force.
After this maiden flight, there will be more and more tests but for the moment there is no visibility as to when these solar-powered drones will be deployed on a large scale.