THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook's internet-beaming Aquila drone has completed its second successful test flight
Aquila, a solar-power aircraft with a wingspan of a Boeing 737 which that is intended to beam the internet to those parts of the world that fibre optics and WiFi cannot reach, a solar-power aircraft with a wingspan of a Boeing 737.
The first 'successful' flight, which took place in June last year, saw the drone crash-land after suffering a "structural failure" due to a powerful gust of wind.
Facebook learnt from its mistakes, it said, and added so-called 'spoilers' to its wings to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing process and installed a horizontal propeller stopping mechanism to aid the landing process.
The firm also kitted out the drone with hundreds of new sensor to collect additional data, modified the autopilot system, and integrated new radios for the communication subsystem.
In a blog post, Facebook has detailed the second test flight, which saw Aquila fly for one hour and 46 minutes over the desert and rose to a flight ceiling of over 3,000 feet - a long way from Facebook's intended 60,000ft goal.
The crew noted that its climb rate the second time around was 180 ft/min, nearly twice as fast as on its first flight.
"Connecting people through high-altitude solar-powered aircraft is an audacious goal, but milestones like this flight make the months of hard work worth it," said Facebook's director of aeronautical platforms Martin Luis Gomez.
"And what is particularly gratifying is that the improvements we implemented based on Aquila's performance during its first test flight made a significant difference in this flight. In the coming months, we're excited to take the lessons from our successful second flight to continue the Aquila program's progress to help bring the world closer together through connectivity." µ
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