Skip to main content

Facebook's giant, internet-serving drone just completed its first full-scale test flight

facebook drone trials aquila internet
Facebook
Facebook has been talking about serving Internet via drone for quite some time now, and this week the team at the social networking giant announced a major milestone. The first test flight of a production scale Aquila drone was a success.

The company originally planned to fly Aquila for only a half-hour, but the test was so successful that the drone ended up flying for nearly 90 minutes during a flight in late June. The flight did remain at a low altitude though, far below the 60,000 feet that Facebook’s swarm of internet-serving drones will fly over underserved areas.

Future tests will gradually build up to that altitude, but at this point Aquila’s research team are more interested in ensuring its systems function properly, the company says. This week’s tests involved checks on aerodynamics, batteries, and control systems, as well as giving some of Aquila’s pilots some real-world flight time.

Eventually Facebook’s drones will fly for three months at a time, and be powered completely by solar. The drones will be positioned in areas where internet access is hard to come by and beam connectivity down to the surface via lasers. No timeline has been given for the launch, but it’s likely several years away.

“To reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which currently stands at two weeks,” Facebook global head of engineering and infrastructure chief Jay Parikh wrote in a blog post. “This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve.”

That work doesn’t also include the discussions Facebook will need to go through with governments and other partners just to have permission to fly the drones on what essentially is a full-time basis. That could be a far more difficult task than building the drone itself. Also, there might be some design issues they’ll need to consider.

According to Wired, just before landing Aquila experienced some type of “structural failure.” While Facebook officials didn’t specify what kind of failure occurred, it suggests that the design might not be ready for primetime just yet either.

Ed Oswald
For fifteen years, Ed has written about the latest and greatest in gadgets and technology trends. At Digital Trends, he's…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more