Facebook’s Aquila drone has completed its second successful full-scale test flight, according to an official announcement from the company. Facebook confirmed this in a blogpost and said the Aquila drone completed this flight on May 2, and flew for a duration of 1 hour and 46 minutes. The drone “landed perfectly,” on the landing site, says company.
Facebook’s Aquila drones are being tested to eventually provide internet connectivity to parts of the world, and these are solar powered drone. In the blogpost, Facebook has listed out some of the changes they made to Aquila, and these include “spoilers” to the wings to increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach.
Facebook has also added “hundreds of sensors” to the Aquila drone in order to collect more data, and modified the autopilot software, and used new radios for communication. Facebook’s Aquila drone had a normal takeoff and a climb rate of 180 feet per minute, which was twice of what the first flight saw.
The Aquila drone managed to climb to 3,000 feet. Facebook says this flight was to collect data, which will be used to “refine our aerodynamic models, which help us predict the energy usage and thus optimize for battery and solar array size.” Facebook’s Aquila Drone is part of the Internet.org project, which aims to bring internet connectivity across the world.
In December 2016, it was reported that Facebook Aquila drone had crash landed earlier because of strong winds, which had confused the autopilot system. Facebook had announced the first successful flight of Aquila in July 2016.
Eventually the goal with Aquila drones is to have these flying at a height of 60,000 feet in the atmosphere, and these will stay airborne for months. A large network of Aquila drones will communicate with each other via lasers, and beam down Internet from the sky. Facebook flew the full scale version of Aquila for the first time in July 2016, and was only testing with scaled models earlier.
In terms of design, Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, and is made of carbon fiber composite, and weighs less than 453 kgs. Facebook plans to make these planes even lighter in the future.