Did you know about Facebook’s solar powered drone that recently completed its first sortie successfully? Going forward Facebook will be accessible in the remotest corners that would otherwise have no access to the Internet. The Internet-drone has the capability of beaming Internet access in any corner of the world from Timbuktu to Kanchenjunga.
Christened Aquila, this amazing drone was created to provide internet access to far flung areas. This revolutionary technology is meant to provide access and opportunity to billions of people who otherwise would never have known about the wonders internet access can enable them with. What’s more is first time users will probably have technology at very cheap prices and at unbelievable speeds as well, according to Jay Parikh, head of engineering and infrastructure at Facebook.
That was just a test sortie, and when FB is done with the testing the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) will be able to cover an area of 60-mile radius, emitting millimeter wave systems (very high frequency radio waves) via laser communications, thus sending connectivity from an altitude of 60,000 feet to the Internet starved population in the remote areas down below.
This huge mechanical cum electronic flying contraption with a wingspan that beats that of a Boeing 737 weighs just a hundredth of the monstrous passenger aircraft. In fact, it weighs just a third of an electric car, thanks to its ultra light carbon-fiber frame. Actually, half the payload is attributable to the batteries that power this drone that is capable of quick sorties during the day as well as during nighttime.
Crafted to be super efficient, this flying wonder can go on for 3 months nonstop. In spite of its huge wingspan it uses up just 5, 000 Watts of power. The recent test sortie was the maiden one as the earlier ones used a prototype that was 5 times smaller according to details released by Facebook spokespersons. This fantastic flying machine is yet to be given a full endurance test to check out how long and how far it can actually fly.
While on a low-altitude sortie, Aquila managed to stay afloat for an hour and a half which was an hour more than what Facebook bargained for. While on this test sortie, the prototype was tested for performance checks of its aerodynamic capabilities, withstanding capacity of the batteries, controls and training for the crew.
During the next series of test sorties FB plans to test Aquila’s speed limits, and how high it can manage to fly, and whether it can break the 60,000-ft barrier. According to Parikh, this will take them closer to their ultimate goal. Of course, the powers that be at FB do realize that there are still air-miles to go with the test phase going on till they probably try to match the current record for solar-powered unmanned aircraft, which stands at two weeks nonstop (credit goes to technology company Qinetiq’s Zephyr aircraft that set the record in 2010) FB realizes that a lot of engineering inputs and advancements are still required before they can call it a day.