Facebook’s Solar-Powered Drone Is Ready To Take Off

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Facebook is finished with the construction of an enormous drone named ‘Aquila’ that runs on solar power and can stay in the stratosphere for months. With Aquila, the social networker hopes to provide broadband Internet to remote and hard-to-reach locations.

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Facebook's Solar-Powered Drone Is Ready To Take Off

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Aquila, the mammoth drone by Facebook, is an invention from the firm’s year-old Connectivity Lab. With a mission to “connect everybody in the world” through the social network, the lab is making efforts to discover new technology.

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Approximately 10% of the world’s population lack the basic infrastructure to get online, and 4 billion people are unable to access internet. And to reach such parts of the population, Facebook is taking help of Drones, satellites, lasers and terrestrial Internet technology.

On Thursday, the social networking giant announced that it has prepared its first full-sized drone along with completing other project milestones. Facebook’s research team claimed that they have discovered a method to enhance the data delivery speed by ten times over the present industry benchmark.

Jay Parikh, VP Engineering, said, “Building big planes and selling them is not core to our mission of connecting people,” adding “We are not going to take this stuff and be ‘Facebook ISP.”

A laser system will work as a mediator between the ground and the drone to access the Internet. The team is still working on the laser technology in California, and claims it has achieved speeds of tens of gigabytes per second, which is enough to allow hundreds of thousands of people to access the Internet.

Aquila is a giant gliding drone

Facebook has been working on developing Aquila for a year now, a technology from UK drone company Ascenta which it acquired in 2014. Looking like a V-shaped boomerang, Aquila measures 140-feet in diameter and is covered in solar cells. Its wingspan is similar to Boeing 737. Aquila weighs around 880 pounds when fitted with motors, batteries and communications equipment. Light carbon fiber, which is much stronger that steel, is used for its body.

Facebook’s drone will be launched by tethering it to a helium balloon. It will absorb solar power, and glide in circles at 90,000 feet during the day time, while at night it will come down to 60,000 feet to save on power. Facebook is planning to design a pilot-free Aquila, as presently one dedicated pilot is required for each drone.

Facebook has yet not decided on an exact timeline, but it is assumed that it may take years before the first Aquila is deployed.

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Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at amanjain@valuewalk.com
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