Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) tested its solar-powered drone in June to bring internet to remote areas. The social networking giant called the June test flight successful, but a report from Bloomberg suggests that a “substantial” damage occurred to the plane during the test. According to the report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the high-altitude drone’s structural failure on approach.
The solar-powered drone, called Aquila, is part of the social media company’s efforts to bring internet to around 4 billion people or 60% of the global population. The internet-serving drone completed the first full-scale test flight without any problem in June. Last month, Martin Gomez, head of aeronautical platforms at Facebook, said that they were in talks with some countries to conduct more tests of its solar-powered drone.
Bloomberg reported that the incident came during the aircraft’s first test flight in June. Aquila, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, suffered a “structural failure” when it was preparing for a landing, according to the report.
There were no reports of any injuries on the ground. The accident occurred at 7:43 a.m. local time near Yuma, according to NTSB’s Peter Knudson. The safety agency has classified the failure as an accident, which means there was a “substantial” damage. Knudson confirmed no damage on the ground.
In September, a Facebook satellite – a key component of the company’s project to provide internet to more than one billion people in remote locations – was destroyed after a SpaceX rocket exploded at a launch site in Cape Canaveral.
Facebook Internet Plans
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) aims to bring affordable broadband internet connectivity in the developing countries. Over 1.5 billion people are living in remote locations around the world with no access to mobile broadband networks. For those people, it’s not possible to implement existing network technologies because it’s challenging and costly task.
In July, Facebook said that it successfully tested Aquila internet-serving drone. The internet drone can 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.
Aquila is able to fly for up to three months at a time. It has the wingspan of an airliner, but consumes only 5,000 watts at a cruising speed. This means that the aircraft’s energy consumption is equal to the power consumed by three hair dryers or a high-end microwave.
“We’re encouraged by this first successful flight, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. In fact, to reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which currently stands at two weeks. This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve. It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they’ll be most effective,” Facebook said in a blog post.
Last month, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) said that a number of countries are interested in hosting test flights of its internet serving drone. The company is expected to start the trial process in 2018.