Mark Zuckerberg has big plans for his company and, of course, for the world. He entered the aircraft industry with “Aquila”, which was announced almost a year ago. A few days ago, the solar-powered airplane built by the Facebook Connectivity Lab completed its first test flight in Yuma, Arizona.
Connectivity Lab began building “Aquila” two years ago, and for the first time, during the tests, it managed to stay in the air for 96 minutes. The drone weights approximately 1,000 pounds, but it’s still not ready for ready for full-scale operation. Global head of engineering and infrastructure Jay Parikh has talked about “Aquila” in a Newsroom post.
“Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places. When complete, Aquila will be able to 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 designed to be hyper-efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts—the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave,” has explained Parikh.
He added that the company has been flying a one-fifth scale version of Aquila for many months, and the test flight of the full-scale aircraft was a real success. “This test flight was designed to verify our operational models and overall aircraft design. To prove out the full capacity of the design, we will push Aquila to the limits in a lengthy series of tests in the coming months and years,” said Parikh, who admitted that failures are inevitable, but the company will push the plane to the brink until everything will go as planned.
Connectivity Lab will study the data obtained from this fight and will continue to conduct more test flights, piloting Aquila to a higher altitude.