Facebook‘s solar-powered plane, named Aquila, has taken its first successful flight. Aquila, in its first flight, flew 96 minutes which was thrice the expectations. Company’s mission was to fly its solar-powered plane for 30 minutes. Company’s aim is to provide internet connectivity to remote parts of the world and to break the record for longest unmanned aircraft flight.
It took two years of hard-work and engineering to reach this far. “But as big as this milestone is, we still have a lot of work to do. Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time–something that’s never been done before,” said company.
Facebook is designing solar-powered drones to beam internet signals to people living in remote parts of the world. Aquila can fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet for three months. Aquila weighs less than 1,000 pounds but to stay up for as long as possible, it has to weigh as little as possible and the company is working on it. Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737. Aquila flies at an speed of less than 80 miles per hour. At 60,000 feet it uses only 5,000W of power which is as much as the power consumed by three hair dryers.
Solar-powered planes are a less expensive way to deliver internet and require less maintenance, and don’t need to land as often as traditional aircraft. “The solar panels on the wings will charge the plane’s batteries during the day so it can keep flying and powering its communications system at night. When one plane is ready to come down for maintenance, another one will be ready to take its place so internet service isn’t disrupted,” said Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The company said “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 4 billion people who are not online access all the opportunities of the internet.”