Facebook’s albatross of a drone completed a second test flight at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on May 22, making up for a previous test that ended in a crash.
Facebook announced the successful flight on Sunday. The solar-powered Aquila drone is designed to provide stable internet access to remote and historically underserved areas, but faced some trouble on its first test flight. It is intended to stay aloft for up to 90 days at a time, drawing power from solar panels on its 113-foot wingspan and flying at a sedate 10-15 mph. During the test, it flew for an hour and 46 minutes and rose 3,000 feet.
The previous flight, held in December, came to a messy end when the landing went wrong, causing “substantial damage” to the right wing. The team has since changed the propellers and other elements, including a horizontal propeller stopping system, additional sensors, and new spoilers. As TechCrunch points out, the propellers switched to a horizontal configuration just before the craft landed. In the test, only one propeller actually did this effectively, but the landing was smooth except for some surface-level “dings.”
That will probably be one of things the engineers work on for the next test flight. A date has not been announced for the next flight, but Facebook’s roadmap includes flying at higher altitudes and faster speeds. Their goal is to fly at 25 mph at sea level at a nighttime altitude of 60,000 feet.
A Facebook study from 2014 estimated that 4.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to the internet. For Facebook, of course, those people are potential users.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense