The first successful test flight of a high altitude solar plane was conducted by Facebook as the company plans to provide internet to 4 billion people in remote parts of the world.
“After two years of engineering, I’m proud to announce the successful first flight of Aquila — the solar-powered plane we designed to beam internet to remote parts of the world. Here’s the video from our first flight,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
The plane, Aquila drone, which at cruising speed uses same wattage as three hairdyrers, uses lasers to beam internet to remote regions.
It has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a car. When cruising it consumes just 5,000 watts – the same as three hairdryers or a powerful microwave.
Zuckerberg said “The flight took place before dawn in Yuma, Arizona. Our original mission was to fly Aquila for 30 minutes, but things went so well that we decided to keep the plane up for 96 minutes. We gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure — and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground.”
“But as big as this milestone is, we still have a lot of work to do. Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time — something that’s never been done before,” Zuckerberg said. “To get there, we need to solve some difficult engineering challenges.”
According to Zuckeberg, the challenges include, weight, power, control, speed, altitude, load, and communications.
“Over the next year we’re going to keep testing Aquila — flying higher and longer, and adding more planes and payloads. 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,” Zuckerberg added.