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Modified Facebook drone takes to the sky again

30 June 2017

Facebook’s drone Aquila has successfully completed its second full-scale test flight, flying for 1 hour and 46 minutes with a perfect landing.

Aquila in flight (Credit: Facebook)

This second test flight took into account the lessons learnt from the drone’s initial flight last year, which resulted in the drone’s structural failure. Facebook’s review noted that the aircraft flew into unexpected windy conditions which meant that just before the structural failure, the aircraft was gliding outside its designated path. 

According to Facebook’s blog post, a number of modifications were incorporated before testing Aquila again:

• “Spoilers” were added to the wings to help increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach
• Hundreds of sensors were added to gather new data
• The autopilot software was modified
• New radios were integrated for the communication subsystem
• A smoother finish was applied on the plane
• A horizontal propeller stopping mechanism was installed to support a successful landing

Aquila reached over 3,000ft and moved at an average of around 10-15mph. the aircraft is designed this way to enable it to stay in the same area for long periods in order to provide internet access.

What is Aquila?

Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places. When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000ft using laser communications and millimetre wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000W — the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave.

Click here to read the full Facebook blog post.

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