Facebook’s solar-powered plane Aquila has successfully completed its second test flight, with a perfect landing. Tested in Arizona, Facebook announced last night about its internet-beaming plane’s successful landing. The test was conducted on May 22 in Yuma, Arizona and lasted for one hour and 46 minutes. Facebook said the drone “landed perfectly on our prepared landing site.”
Facebook’s Martin Luis Gomez said, “Aquila’s second test flight took into account the lessons we learned from our first flight. In advance of the second flight, we incorporated a number of modifications to Aquila…”. Unfortunately, Aquila’s first test flight in July 2016 wasn’t exactly a success, where the drone had a crash landing that resulted in a big chunk of the wing falling off.
So this time, Facebook used new spoilers on the wings, which the company believes will “help to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach.” Facebook also said the plane climbed at 180 feet per minute, twice as fast as its first test. Also, Gomez noted that, in the second test, Aquila flew as high as 3,000 feet, up from the 2,150 feet it did a year ago. Eventually, Facebook hopes Aquila will fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet in the air for months at a time in order to beam wireless internet down to rural areas of the world where that are currently off the grid.
Facebook’s solar powered Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 and the body of the plane is made of a carbon fibre composite so the whole thing weighs less than 1,000 pounds or about the same as a grand piano. According to Jay Parikh, Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure at Facebook, when complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 96 km in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper-efficient so it can fly for up to three months at a time, wherein at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts – the same amount as three hair dryers or a high-end microwave.