It was reported many months ago that Facebook was working on solar planes that will fly to remote destinations and beam down internet access to areas that are still not adequately connected. As many as 4 billion people are believed to be without internet connectivity and over 1.6 billion of them live in remote locations. Facebook’s unmanned solar plane – Aquila – has finally taken to the skies with the aim of collecting humanity to the internet.
The Facebook Connectivity Lab today announced the first full-scale test flight of Aquila, it’s high-altitude unmanned aircraft. The aim is simple: use this solar plane to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in remote regions of the world. Aquila will be able to circle a region of up to 60 miles in diameter while beaming down connectivity from more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems. The plane has been designed to be super efficient so it can fly for up to 90 days at a time.
In the coming months, Aquila is going to be pushed to the limits in a lengthy series of tests so that Facebook can prove out the full capacity of its design. In the first test flight, Aquila took to the skies at a low altitude for over 90 minutes, three times longer than what was originally planned.
A lot of work remains to be done before Aquila can go to the most remote regions of this planet and provide internet connectivity but it’s surely getting there.