Facebook's Aquila Internet Drone Completes First Flight

...

Millennials know exactly what they want and expectations are high - very high. They are empowered

WiFi takes to the skies in the form of Aquila, a self-piloting Facebook drone with a wingspan greater than that of a Boeing 737. It's another move by companies such as Facebook and Google to deliver internet services through unconventional means.

On the heels of its announcement this week for a laser-based solution to routing the wireless web, social media titan Facebook completed the first successful flight of Aquila, the company's solar-powered plane designed to beam the internet to remote parts of the world.

The flight, which took place before dawn in Yuma, Ariz., on June 28, was only meant to last for 30 minutes, but the test went so well that the team decided to keep the plane flying for up for 96 minutes.

The eventual goal is to have a fleet of the drones flying at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time. That duration would allow Facebook to break the record for the longest unmanned aircraft flight.

While Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, it has to weigh as little as possible to stay up for as long as possible. The design team solved the problem by constructing a carbon fiber composite body. This means the drone weighs less than 1,000 pounds.

Although the drone is in some ways self-piloting, Aquila relies on a ground crew of about a dozen engineers, pilots, and technicians who direct, maintain, and monitor the aircraft. The team controls the craft through software that allows them to determine heading, altitude, and air speed, or even send Aquila on a GPS-based route.

Aquila's communications payload uses lasers to transfer data, and will be able to aim its beams accurately enough to hit a dime more than 11 miles away while in motion.

"Over the next year we're going to keep testing Aquila -- flying higher and longer, and adding more planes and payloads," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a July 21 blog post. "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. As we make progress, we'll continue sharing what we learn."

The company is not alone in its quest to bring WiFi to the sky.

Google is expanding its ambitions for WiFi in the sky with Project SkyBender, which aims to deliver 5G wireless internet from solar-powered drones, according to a January report in The Guardian.

Earlier this week Facebook announced it had developed a laser-powered internet connectivity technology that detects optical communication signals traveling through the air.

[Read more about Facebook's other projects to create high-speed internet access.]

The development, announced on July 19 by the company's Connectivity Lab and published on The Optical Society, indicates there may be a future for license-free communications systems.

The experiment offered data rates of more than 2 gigabits per second (Gbps), but Tobias Tiecke, the leader of the research team, wrote that the new approach could theoretically allow free-space optical data rates of more than 10 Gbps if materials were developed that operate in the infrared part of the spectrum, invisible to human eyes.

The research team plans to move the technology out of the lab and into the real world through the development of a prototype that could eventually lead to a commercial product.

Categories
APPLICATIONS
0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Captcha image


RELATED BY

  • 5300c769af79e

    PayPal is Done Protecting the Crowdfunded Garbage You Keep Backing

    Backing items on crowdfunded sites is almost always a pretty bad idea.Because of the uncertainty and risk, PayPal has decided that it is no longer willing to protect your funds if they are used to back crowdfunded items.
  • 5300c769af79e

    Watch: 8 Minutes of Leaked Pokémon GO Beta Gameplay

    In this 8-minute long video, we see a beginning trainer capture his first Pokémon, battle them, and how a player interacts with the world around him to find new Pokémon.Using your phone’s camera will likely drain just a bit more juice than if you choose not to.
  • 5300c769af79e

    Zero-Day Hunters Offer $500K For iOS Bugs

    Days after Apple launched its first bug bounty program, zero-day hunters Exodus Intelligence upped the ante.Cybersecurity researchers are invited to participate in the new Research Sponsorship Program (RSP), which awards bounties for both zero-day flaws and exploits against patched (n-day) vulnerabilities.
  • 5300c769af79e

    The Coming Death of Freeware

    As I write this column, I immediately wonder if the situation is so dire that I have to actually define freeware and shareware.But over time, the simple model that gave us all sorts of cool utilities, add-ons, and entire suites of software changed drastically.