Facebook’s solar-powered plane, designed to beam internet into underserved areas, crashed during a test flight this summer, the Associated Press reports.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a report on Friday saying that the Aquila plane crashed on June 28 near Yuma, Arizona due to high winds.
“The aircraft experienced significant deviations in pitch, roll and airspeed, consistent with turbulence during the final approach,” the NTSB reported.
The Aquila plane’s long wings were designed to fly very slowly, riding the air like an albatross and using very little power. The NTSB said that it was flying at about 29 mph at about 20 feet off the ground when it encountered unexpected wind gusts about twice as strong as the aircraft was designed to handle. The plane was on track to land using its autonomous navigation system. The unexpected gust of wind pushed the aircraft higher than intended, causing the autopilot to lower the nose to compensate and increase its airspeed. A wing was broken and the craft was “substantially damaged” in the crash.
There were no injuries as a result of the crash, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post in July that he considered the test a success because of the data which was gathered. Zuckerberg didn’t mention the crash at that time.
Aviation experts consulted by The Verge said that flying in morning (at 7:37 a.m.) in the desert exposed the test plane to wind speeds that Facebook’s engineers should have known would exceed what Aquila could handle.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense