January Chapter Meeting Followup – Facebook Aquila

A solar-powered drone backed by Facebook that could one day provide worldwide internet access has quietly completed a test flight in Arizona after an earlier attempt ended with a crash landing.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s long-term plan for the drone, called Aquila, is to have it and others provide internet access to 4 billion people around the world who are currently in the dark.

“When Aquila is ready, it will be a fleet of solar-powered planes that will beam internet connectivity across the world,” he wrote Thursday on Facebook.

The drone’s second flight was completed in May at Yuma Proving Ground, The Yuma Sun reported.

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The drone flew with more sensors, new spoilers and a horizontal propeller stopping system to help it better land after the crash in December. It was in the air for an hour and 46 minutes and elevated 3,000 feet.

The drone flew with the engineering team watching a live stream from a helicopter chasing the drone, said Martin Luis Gomez, Facebook’s director of aeronautical platforms.

The team was thrilled with the outcome, Gomez said.

“The improvements we implemented based on Aquila’s performance during its first test flight made a significant difference in this flight,” he said.

The drone weighs about 1,000 pounds and has a longer wingspan than a Boeing 747.

The drone runs mostly on autopilot, but there are manned ground crews to manage certain maneuvers.

“We successfully gathered a lot of data to help us optimize Aquila’s efficiency,” Zuckerberg said. “No one has ever built an unmanned airplane that will fly for months at a time, so we need to tune every detail to get this right.”

THE CHALLENGE

AQUILA CHALLENGES

THE CHALLENGE
● Internet access can offer life-changing opportunities, information, and experiences, but there
are still 4 billion people without it.
● 1.6 billion of these people live in remote locations that are not currently served by mobile
broadband networks. The conventional approach to building networks — cell towers strung
together by fiber — is too costly to make sense in these regions.
● Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is developing new technologies, like Aquila, to address this challenge.

THE AIRPLANE

AQUILA AIRCRAFT

THE AIRPLANE
● Aquila is a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned solar-powered airplane.
● The wings are made from a cured carbon fiber that is stronger than steel for the same mass
of material.
● Aquila has a wingspan bigger than a Boeing 737 airplane but weighs hundreds of times less
(about a third of an electric car), because of its unique design and carbon-fiber frame.
● Aquila flies on solar power during the day and battery power at night. About half of Aquila’s
mass is devoted to batteries.
● At 60,000 feet, Aquila’s efficient aerodynamics allow it to loiter using approximately 5,000 W
of power, about as much as three hair dryers. The batteries must supply that load for a long
winter night: up to 13 or 14 hours.

HOW IT WORKs

HOW AQUILA WILL WORK

HOW IT WILL WORK
● When deployed, Aquila will be part of a fleet of airplanes beaming internet signal to people
within a 60-mile communications diameter for up to 90 days at a time.
● It will fly at altitudes between 60,000 and 90,000 feet — above commercial air traffic and
above the weather.
● It will use free space laser communications as a mechanism for communicating between aircraft
in the fleet, and e-band technology to beam connectivity from the airplane to receivers
on the ground.
● Our team designed and lab-tested a laser that can deliver data at 10s of Gbps — approximately
10x faster than the previous state-of-the-art — to a target the size of a dime from
more than 10 miles away.

By | 2017-07-15T06:09:56+00:00 July 5th, 2017|Featured|Comments Off on January Chapter Meeting Followup – Facebook Aquila