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

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Old July 24th 16, 10:40 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
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Posts: 3,953
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

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

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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