Facebook Lands Aquila Drone In Test Flight

Facebook’s solar powered high altitude unmanned aircraft Acquila has completed its second full-scale test flight. In its first test flight, Acquila met with some damages to its right wing as it flew into higher than expected wind conditions. In its second test, the flight with no traditional landing gear, flew one hour 46 minutes and landed safely.

Unmanned Acquila is intended to beam internet to remote areas. The body is made up of carbon fiber so that it can stay up for long hours. Though it has a wingspan of more than a Boeing 737, it weights only less than 1000 pounds. It will fly in slow speed to retain energy and can attain 80 miles per hour at thinner air. It uses only 5000 W at a height of 60,000 feet and it can go up to an altitude of 90,000 feet.

Acquila is designed to beam internet signals to around 60-mile diameter in under-served remote areas. Each one can stay afloat on air for up to 90 days.

In its second flight, engineers added spoilers to the wings to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach and installed a horizontal propeller to support landing. It has added several sensors and modified the autopilot software. For better communication system two new radios were added.

In a blog-post, Martin Luis Gomez, the director of Facebook’s aeronautical platforms said, “Takeoff was normal. It also quickly became apparent that all the systems were functioning normally: The motor current, the airspeed tracking, the heading tracking, the radio links, and the differential GPS all showed nominal behavior. The only surprise was a happy one: The climb rate – at 180 ft/min – was nearly twice as fast as on our first flight. We attribute this to the numerous refinements to Aquila – especially a smoother finish – that were based on learning from our first flight.”

by RTT Staff Writer

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