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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Facebook solar-powered drone logs on for testing

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August 02:

Leading social network hopes its Aquila plane will one day provide internet access to remote regions


Facebook has unveiled its first full-scale solar-powered drone, reaching a new milestone in its push to provide global internet access.
The social network company claims the plane, named Aquila, can fly for three months non-stop, and is part of its project to provide internet to the 10 per cent of the world's population that live in areas with no access.

The aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, will be tested in the US later this year, and will use a similar flight pattern to the record-breaking Solar Impulse plane. Cruising at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, the drone will fly at the maximum altitude during the day and then glide to the lowest height in the evening, in order to save battery life.
Jay Parikh, vice president of global engineering and infrastructure, said the project was still in the early stages of development. "We still have a long way to go in this work, but we are excited by our early progress," he said. "And much like we've done with the Open Commute Project, we plan to engage with the broader community and share what we've learned, so we can all move faster in the development of these technologies."
The plane was built in fourteen months and will use helium balloons to reach the necessary height, where it will then circle a three kilometre radius in order to stay in the air.
When completed, the project will make use of lasers to transmit information between the air and the ground. The prototype lasers, which were trialled in the UK earlier this year, also reached a milestone after developers successfully tested a new laser that can deliver data at 10 gigabits per second to a target the size of a dime more than 10 miles away.


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