Facebook’s internet drone crashed during a test flight, and now U.S. safety authorities are investigating the incident. Though there were no injuries associated with the incident, the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) said the damage was too much, and hence, the aircraft has been rendered unsuitable for flight.
Facebook drone suffered a “structural failure”
In 2014, Facebook bought the British aerospace company Ascenta, which developed the solar-powered Aquila drone in Somerset. Then in June during a test flight in Arizona, the drone suffered a “structural failure.”
NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson informed the media that the accident occurred near Yuma at 7:43 a.m. on June 28. Since the NTSB classified the failure as an accident, it can be assumed that the drone sustained major damage, notes Bloomberg. Knudson added that no damage occurred on the ground.
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Facebook, however, says the test flight had been a success.
“We were happy with the successful first test flight and were able to verify several performance models and components including aerodynamics, batteries, control systems and crew training, with no major unexpected results.”
Though Facebook’s drones have a wingspan of over 30 meters, they are as light as a grand piano. The social networking giant plans to use them to bring wireless internet access to areas that are yet uncovered by mobile networks. The drone’s flying wing is designed to eventually be solar-powered so that it could remain aloft for long stretches.
Big setback for Zuckerberg’s efforts
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making efforts to expand internet access to the roughly 3 billion people who are living without it. But the recent drone crash is the latest setback for this effort, says The Telegraph. A couple of months ago, a rocket meant to launch a Facebook satellite into space exploded, destroying the satellite.
Also Zuckerberg’s Free Basics project, through which he aims to provide free access to Facebook and a number of other internet services, faced a setback. It was banned in India because the locals viewed the project as a poorly-disguised land grab of the Indian internet market rather than a charitable project.
The June crash of Facebook’s drone was the second accident related to an unmanned aircraft that has been made to fly for long durations, notes Bloomberg. In May, 2015, a drone belonging to Alphabet called the Solara 50 crashed at a desert landing strip in New Mexico. According to the NTS, the aircraft was having control problems as it flew in a thermal updraft.
At 1:56 p.m. Eastern, Facebook shares were down 0.08% at $121.68.