In February 2014, Facebook developed an experimental drone powered with solar energy specifically for an atmospheric satellite. These drones were made to act as a relay satellite stations that will provide internet access to remote areas. Facebook Drone was named Aquila by Facebook; it was developed the Facebook Connectivity Lab and the drone prototype was made by a Somerset, England based company acquired by Facebook known by Ascenta.
Aquila has a wingspan almost the same size with Boeing 737 but weighs less weighing only 400kg. Facebook Drone was developed with flying wing configuration with the wing’s upper surface covered with solar cells to power the drones electric motors and batteries. The batteries composed half of the drones weight and it provide energy require for night flight. The prototype of this drone was said to have used the same amount of power three blow dryers will use. The first prototype became airborne with a launch trolley.
Facebook Drone Fly Range
Facebook want this drone to fly at an altitude as high as 90000 feet during the day. Which will drop to 60000 feet at night enduring for a period up to three months. Facebook Drone will have the capacity to provide internet service for area up to 80 km radius below its flight path. Facebook Drone will be providing internet access to 66% of earth surface areas. This is with poor or no internet service if it was assigned a communication spectrum.
Last year, Facebook successfully completed the second test for the drone and more test are still schedule to hold any time soon. In the last test conducted, Facebook Drone stayed in the air for 1 hour and 46 minutes, passing over the desert where it gather data the Aquila team will need to optimize the drones efficiency moving forward. According to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg in a post he made on Facebook; Facebook Drone landed without any problems or incidents. This test was a positive step in the drone’s project which could see a fleet of drones staying in the air for about a month at once. However, the drones will need to be optimized completely to achieve this type of performance.
Facebook Drone Upcoming Test
Upcoming test are aimed at knowing Facebook Drone batteries stresses the drone’s flexible wings and its in-flight dynamics. Meanwhile the drone developers have been working on the ways to make it lighter and reduce the amount of power it consumes. They want to know the accurate amount power the drone will take to operate on different altitudes. They are also interested in the heat generated by the drone at take off, flight and landing; how all this power demand affect the size of the drone’s battery; its freedom range; performance of solar panel and the drone seasonal performance.
In addition to the new development Facebook is making, the company plans on developing a technology that will make use of brain-computer interface which will allow people to communicate through their minds. So the Aquila drone is not the only most fascinating development Facebook is working on; it will be interesting to know what next step Facebook is taking.