Facebook gives up on building its own internet drone

facebook aquila internet drone
Facebook

Facebook is abandoning efforts to build its own internet drone.

The decision to end work on its Aquila aircraft comes after four years of development. The aim had been to use the solar-powered flying machine to bring internet connectivity to communities in remote parts of the world that don’t have any internet infrastructure.

But in a message posted this week, Facebook said that since it started working on the Aquila drone in 2014, a number of aerospace companies had begun developing high-altitude aircraft with similar aims in mind.

“Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer,” Yael Maguire, a director of engineering at the social networking company, wrote in the post.

The company says it will keep the Aquila project alive by collaborating with partners such as Airbus, and also continue working on other initiatives aimed at getting more people online.

High hopes

Facebook once had high hopes for its solar-powered drone. The plan was to deploy a fleet of them at high altitude for up to 90 days at a time while delivering tens of gigabits per second of bandwidth to communities below.

But designing the Aquila drone, which at 42 meters featured a wingspan wider than that of a Boeing 737, was clearly a huge challenge. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg made that abundantly clear in a blog post in the summer of 2016 in which he listed numerous hurdles that had to be overcome.

The team suffered a setback at the end of the same year when windy conditions during a test flight caused the aircraft to crash during a landing attempt, an incident that prompted engineers to review its design. It achieved a clean landing in 2017, but it had taken six months to reach that point.

Abandoning work on the drone will result in the closure of a Facebook facility in Bridgwater, England. It’s not clear how many jobs will be lost or transferred as a result.

‘Connectivity for everyone’

Maguire wrote that “connectivity for everyone, everywhere is one of the great challenges of our generation,” adding that Facebook has already connected nearly 100 million people as a result of its various efforts.

As the company now looks to aerospace firms to help it one day get an internet drone in the air, Maguire said Facebook is continuing to invest in developing next-generation, internet-related technologies “like Terragraph, working with partners on new infrastructure builds like our fiber project in Uganda, and supporting entrepreneurs in programs like Express Wi-Fi — all to help connect the 4 billion people who still do not have access to the internet.”

Facebook’s drone project had been competing to some extent with Google’s Project Loon, which uses enormous high-altitude balloons instead of pilotless aircraft to carry the necessary equipment for enabling internet connectivity.

Cars

From a bad battery to a crash, Virginia Tech’s automated car beat all challenges

Eight colleges across America were chosen to compete in a three-year challenge to build an autonomous car. Sponsored by General Motors and SAE, the AutoDrive Challenge offers college students the chance to create a Level 4 autonomous…
Emerging Tech

Get one of the best cheap drones you can buy, and cry less when you crash

Want to get in on all this hot drone action, but don't want to spend half a paycheck to make it happen? There are actually lots of feature-packed budget options. Check out this list of the best drones under $500.
Smart Home

Two U.S. senators think your TV is spying on you, ask the FTC to investigate

U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate smart TV privacy policies and practices. The Senators say smart TVs can build viewer profiles that include political affiliations.
Product Review

DJI's Twinkie-sized Spark drone packs more features than a Swiss army knife

If there’s one thing DJI is good at, it’s stuffing a ton of features and functionality into increasingly small drones. Nothing showcases this talent more than the DJI Spark.
Computing

FCC proposal could help Google Fiber roll out to more cities

Gigabit internet could get a boost in the U.S. if the FCC votes to approve a new proposal affecting how utility poles are managed. This could help new service providers, like Google Fiber, rapidly deploy its fast internet service.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Laptop screen extenders and self-healing tents

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Apple fixes its battery drain issue with iOS 11.4.1 update

Apple's iOS 11 is the latest version of the company's mobile operating system, but it still has some issues to be worked out. We've searched the internet to find the biggest iOS 11 problems, along with some potential solutions.
Cars

Aston Martin flying concept brings style and luxury to the skies

Aston Martin has joined the list of companies racing to deploy flying taxis above the world's most crowded cities. The Volante Vision concept previews a hybrid aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Cars

Rolls-Royce wants to put you in a flying taxi come the early 2020s

Rolls-Royce wants to take you for a ride in the skies. The U.K.-based jet engine maker has unveiled a new concept for a propulsion system that would power a flying taxi. This would rival similar offerings from Airbus and Uber.
Emerging Tech

Pilot’s sneaky puff on his e-cigarette causes chaos on passenger plane

A relaxing smoke turned out to be anything but for an Air China pilot last week. An effort to prevent the vapor from reaching the cabin ended up causing chaos on the jet, with the incident ultimately costing the pilot his job.
Emerging Tech

Strike while the iron is hot: DJI’s best drones are dirt cheap during Prime Day

If you've been biding your time and waiting for drone prices to drop, then you should definitely check out the deals that DJI is offering during Amazon Prime Day this year
Gaming

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.
Computing

Relive 1998 as live chat rooms roll out across Reddit in a limited beta

Reddit is slowly rolling out real-time chat rooms across a limited number of subreddits. Currently in beta, Reddit Chat went live in 2017 for a small group of around 7,000 users. Reddit is now expanding this service.
Business

Tinder begins testing Bitmoji feature in Mexico and Canada using Snap Kit

Using Snapchat's latest developer platform known as Snap Kit, Tinder has begun testing the Bitmoji feature in Mexico and Canada. By connecting their Snapchat and Tinder accounts, users are able to send Bitmojis through the dating app.
Photography

3 simple things you can do to step up your selfie game

Taking a selfie might seem simple enough, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Here are three elements to keep in mind the next time you take a selfie to share on social media.
Photography

What is portrait mode? How tech helps smartphones capture a better you

Several years ago, portrait modes started showing up on phones and quickly became one of the most popular ways to capture selfies, profile pics, and more. But how does portrait mode work, and how much difference does it make?
Social Media

You could soon shop on Snapchat with a new visual search tool called Eagle

Shopping and Snapchat could soon be synonymous. As originally reported by TechCrunch, the popular social media platform is experimenting with a new visual search feature called "Eagle."
Mobile

Ready to party? Pinterest expands group boards with new activity feed, threads

Pinning with a group? Pinterest group boards are now more conversation-friendly. A new activity board collects all the changes in one place, while new threads encourage group conversations among the Pins and comments.
Social Media

Augmented reality is coming to Facebook — in the form of advertisements

Augmented reality is coming to Facebook, but perhaps not in the way that you would have wanted. Facebook announced on Tuesday, July 10 that it has begun testing AR advertisements within its Newsfeed.
Photography

Instagram’s question stickers bring comment-like interaction to Stories

Instagram Stories lack some of the interaction options from the traditional feed but that is not stopping Instagram from coming up with new ways to interact. The sticker allows you to ask a question and get open-ended responses.