Facebook’s first internet drone, dubbed Aquila, took to the skies earlier this week for one of the first full-scale tests. Facebook’s high-flying initiative, developed by its Connectivity Lab, is aimed at providing connectivity to folks in remote places such as under-developed countries.
“Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places,” Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure Jay Parikh explained. “When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems.”
Once several drones are complete, Facebook could potentially keep people connected all of the time, and without the need for expensive base stations or running wires to remote areas. Parikh said that the drone is so low powered that it consumes about as much energy as three hair dryers “or a high-end microwave.” Pretty crazy.
Aquila’s first flight lasted for more than an hour and a half, which Parikh said was about an hour longer than he had hoped the first flight would last. He and his team will continue to develop Aquila until it’s successfully flying for three months at a time.