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Facebook's massive solar-powered drone takes its first flight



 
 
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  #1  
Old July 24th 16, 10:40 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 3,832
Default Facebook's massive solar-powered drone takes its first flight


It's beginning to look like solar powered flight is here to stay. Of course,
Dr. Paul MacCready http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/mac0bio-1 was the
pioneer, among his many aviation accomplishments, but with a successful solar
powered circumnavigation of our world completed last week, and the Zuckerberg
effort (below), it's becoming more and more difficult to deny the inevitability
of all electric aircraft in our future.

See the solar powered aircraft that flew to nearly 100,000 feet, the edge of
space: http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_maccready_flies_on_solar_wings
================================================== ===================

Facebook's massive solar-powered drone takes its first flight

http://mashable.com/2016/07/21/faceb...CFGuqxFacebook
has flown its full-sized solar-powered airplane for the first time, after years
of anticipation.

The large drone named Aquila had a successful test flight and ended up
remaining in the sky for 90 minutes, which Facebook said was three-times longer
than planned.

Aquila was announced at the F8 conference in March 2015, and although flights
have happened on smaller models of the drone this is the first test of the
full-sized version. Its main purpose, the company said, is to provide internet
to the 4 billion people in the world that don't have access.

The drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737 and the finished product
will need to fly at altitudes of between 60,000 to 90,000 for a period of three
months.

Although it is large and expected to remain in flight for that amount of time,
the unmanned device is expected to only consume the same amount of energy as a
hairdryer or a microwave.

VIDEO: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/videos/10102979862144171/

"Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable
internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places. When
complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter,
beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser
communications and millimeter wave systems," the company said in a statement.

Aquila is a key part of Facebook's far-ranging plan to bring the whole world
online through Internet.org. In blog post Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg laid out
his vision for how the company's solar-powered drone could eventually turn that
vision into a reality.

"Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000
feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at
a time something that's never been done before," Zuckerberg wrote.

That ambitious goal is still several years away, though. Zuckerberg notes there
are still several major engineering hurdles to overcome, like how to make the
craft even lighter and how to reduce its reliance on the ground crew that helps
operate the plane.

The CEO said they will continue to do more tests over the next year, with the
goal of getting Aquila to fly at higher altitude for longer periods of time.
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  #2  
Old July 25th 16, 03:25 AM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
[email protected]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 61
Default Facebook's massive solar-powered drone takes its first flight

On Sunday, July 24, 2016 at 5:40:23 PM UTC-4, Larry Dighera wrote:
It's beginning to look like solar powered flight is here to stay. Of course,
Dr. Paul MacCready http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/mac0bio-1 was the
pioneer, among his many aviation accomplishments, but with a successful solar
powered circumnavigation of our world completed last week, and the Zuckerberg
effort (below), it's becoming more and more difficult to deny the inevitability
of all electric aircraft in our future.

See the solar powered aircraft that flew to nearly 100,000 feet, the edge of
space: http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_maccready_flies_on_solar_wings
================================================== ===================

Facebook's massive solar-powered drone takes its first flight

http://mashable.com/2016/07/21/faceb...CFGuqxFacebook
has flown its full-sized solar-powered airplane for the first time, after years
of anticipation.

The large drone — named Aquila — had a successful test flight and ended up
remaining in the sky for 90 minutes, which Facebook said was three-times longer
than planned.

Aquila was announced at the F8 conference in March 2015, and although flights
have happened on smaller models of the drone this is the first test of the
full-sized version. Its main purpose, the company said, is to provide internet
to the 4 billion people in the world that don't have access.

The drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737 and the finished product
will need to fly at altitudes of between 60,000 to 90,000 for a period of three
months.

Although it is large and expected to remain in flight for that amount of time,
the unmanned device is expected to only consume the same amount of energy as a
hairdryer or a microwave.

VIDEO: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/videos/10102979862144171/

"Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable
internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places.. When
complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter,
beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser
communications and millimeter wave systems," the company said in a statement.

Aquila is a key part of Facebook's far-ranging plan to bring the whole world
online through Internet.org. In blog post Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg laid out
his vision for how the company's solar-powered drone could eventually turn that
vision into a reality.

"Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000
feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at
a time — something that's never been done before," Zuckerberg wrote.

That ambitious goal is still several years away, though. Zuckerberg notes there
are still several major engineering hurdles to overcome, like how to make the
craft even lighter and how to reduce its reliance on the ground crew that helps
operate the plane.

The CEO said they will continue to do more tests over the next year, with the
goal of getting Aquila to fly at higher altitude for longer periods of time.


Naturally if they're going to autonomously fly for hours, and eventually
days, we'll want them to have their own crash avoidance systems, right?

--

The skies of tomorrow will be filled with drones. Amazon and Google want to use them for deliveries. Construction companies are eyeing drones for building inspections. Filmmakers are already using drones to find new perspectives for storytelling. And of course, law enforcement agencies want to spy on us with them.

At a certain point, all of these drones are going to start banging into each other in our increasingly crowded skies. How do we prevent dronelock? Daniel Ellis, co-founder of the Michigan-based SkySpecs company has the answer.. For the past five years, the SkySpecs team has been working on an object detection and avoidance system for aerial drones that could help even amateur pilots prevent dangerous collisions. Last week the company was accepted into the startup incubator R/GA Accelerator to help it get its first product, Guardian Crash Avoidance, to market.

Thus far, the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t approved commercial unmanned aerial vehicles for many uses. That’s helped existing drone operations avoid trouble. “Drones aren’t running into other drones yet because there’s not that many drones in the sky,” Ellis says. But once the FAA starts permitting more uses, the blue skies could darken. “There hasn’t been an incident where a drone has crashed into an airplane yet, but that’s part of what we’re trying to avoid,” he says.

The Need for Flying Robots

There are already plenty of drone autopilot systems, such as the open source Paparazzi system, but SkySpecs is building a layer that runs above that, helping human pilots avoid dangerous mistakes. The technology could also be a boon to less-experienced drone pilots, says David Peachey, the vice president of engineering of wind turbine service company UpWind.

UpWind maintains and repairs wind turbines across the country. To inspect equipment, the company’s field technicians must either analyze photos of a turbine’s blades, or repel down from the top to get a closer look. Peachey says the company wants to use drones to get better photos of the turbines without the need to repel. The problem, he says, is two-fold. One, the FAA still doesn’t allow commercial use of drones. But even if UpWind could use drones, the company would have to hire experienced pilots to fly close to the turbines to get clear photos without crashing into them.

Even though Guardian Crash Avoidance isn’t available commercially yet, Peachey says UpWind hasn’t found anything nearly as mature as SkySpecs’ solution.

The SkySpecs team, who met at the University of Michigan in 2009, started out by building their own drones for the International Aerial Robotics Competition competition. “I thought I wanted to do manned aircraft,” says Ellis, who was an aerospace engineering major. “But it was a time that drones were becoming popular and it seemed like a good opportunity.” The only problem was that the university didn’t have any sort of drone engineering program yet. But he quickly found a group of likeminded individuals and got to work. “No one else at the university was building drones, so we did it ourselves,” he says.

By the time they founded in SkySpecs in 2012, the team had grown from a team of four engineers to a team of nine. They settled on collision avoidance software as their first product.

There are a few other companies, such as Airwave, that are trying to tackle similar problems, and there will like be more, says Phil Finnegan, an analyst at the Teal Group. “Sense-and-avoid technology will be a critical technology as national airspace worldwide is opened for unmanned systems,” Finnegan says. But it’s still early days for the field. “Even the standards of what would constitute an acceptable ‘sense and avoid’ have not been defined,” he says.

http://www.wired.com/2014/10/skyspecs/

---
 




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