Facebook took one step closer to providing internet access to isolated locations throughout the world.
Connectivity Labs, a subsidiary of the social media giant specializing in creating new wireless technology, announced that its unmanned, solar-powered aircraft Aquila completed its first test flight last month.
The goal of the first test initially was to ensure the drone would be able to get airborne, wrote Ars Technica. Also, this test run was the first the engineers used for computer modeling to analyze the take-off altitude and speed.
Next, data regarding the drone’s performance at a low altitude were transmitted to the aeronautics team on the ground. This included seeing how factors like power usage and the effectiveness of the autopilot system fared while airborne.
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Aquila flew for more than 90 minutes, which was three times longer than the team had planned.
Overall, the results were positive validating several of Facebook’s computer models. Engadget noted there was one structural failure that happened right before Aquila landed, but that landing still was accomplished successfully.
The ultimate goal of this project is to have Aquila fly for three months at a time using 5,000 watts of solar energy, which is equivalent to the output of three hair dryers, so it can beam internet connectivity from altitudes of 60,000 feet.
More work needs to be conducted on Aquila in order to refine features like the plane’s energy storage capabilities. You can watch the video of the first flight below.