Facebook ready to ramp up flights of its solar-powered drone

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Last summer, when Facebook tested its huge drone, the right wing fizzled out and it smashed into the Arizona desert. So, you know, could have gone better. But it was round one, and the company now believes it’s ready to test the solar-powered Aquila multiple times a month. 

“The systems performed way better than planned,” Facebook Vice President of Engineering Jay Parikh said on Monday from a conference in Barcelona, Spain, according to Bloomberg. “But we need to fly a lot more.”

The plan is to start flying a few times a month. Facebook’s ultimate goal is to use these drones with massive wingspans to bring internet connectivity to areas without regular online access. Think of them as traveling, solar-powered internet hubs. 

Facebook planned to add a brake or a spoiler after the crash in June, and the company now reportedly understands the importance of flying at a speed optimal for aircraft safety.

“Each successive test flight will bring both expected and unexpected technical challenges, and will teach us more about how to fly this experimental aircraft,” Facebook Connectivity Lab leader Yael Maguire and director of aeronautical platforms Martin Gomez wrote in a post in December, after the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report on the crash.

“We intend to push the plane to its limits so we can learn more, learn faster, and reach our ultimate goal of connecting people sooner.”

We’ll see if they can land the thing in round two. 



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