After a crash landing in 2016 that set back Facebook’s plans, the social media giant had better luck this year. Facebook’s Aquila was in the air at approximately 30,000 feet for nearly two hours before returning home. Despite Aquila’s first test run being marred by strong winds, Facebook is now celebrating a flawless effort. The original drone crash was kept secret by company execs and became public only after routine government paperwork concerning the accident was made public.
The flight occurred in May, but details are only now coming to light as Facebook makes the information public. In response to the drone team’s initial failures, engineers outfitted the drone with spoilers in order to maximize drag and minimize lift during the landing stage. According to one Facebook team member, the drone returned in excellent shape except for a few cosmetic issues.
According to Mark Zuckeberg’s own blog post, the test flight took place in the early mornings hours over the Yuma, Arizona area. Although the team’s original goal was to keep Aquila in the air for just half an hour, engineers decided to extend the flight thanks to everything running so smoothly. Eventually, the company hopes to build a fleet of drones capable of soaring to 60,000 feet that would be able to communicate with one another using laser technology.
Before Facebook can realize its goals, however, engineers must sort out a host of technical problems. The aircraft, which has a wingspan that rivals that of a 747, needs to be made as light as possible in order to remain in the air for extended periods of time. Facebook hopes that using laser technology, its drones will be able to transfer information at rates much higher than what is currently possible, bringing the Internet to places where access has never been available.