Facebook‘s solar-powered internet drone Aquila struck during its inaugural test flight in Yuma, Arizona this summertime due to strong winds, federal investigators noted on Friday. As per a report launched by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the drone experienced an unforeseen, effective gust of wind as it came in for a landing that made it tough for the unmanned drone to maintain its right angle of descent.
In a post, Facebook stated that during the final seconds of the flight, the airplane flew into “higher-than-expected wind conditions” as it was coming down that raised the craft above its glidepath. The autopilot then reacted by reducing the nose of the aircraft down to compensate and lifted the flaps called elevons on its wings up.
“The combination of high airspeed, up elevon, and low angle of attack led to increased downward lift (and torsion) on the outer wing panels,” the NTSB’s report included. “This loading surpassed its structural limitation and resulted in a downward deformation and failure of the right wing.” There were no injuries or ground damage in the incident.
As per Facebook, the “autopilot was not able to track both the airspeed and glidepath all at once, and provided excessive priority to tracking the glidepath at the expense of not restricting the airspeed.”
The social network giant informed they are already working on integrating possible fixes in future models and flight tests consisting of a drag gadget that permits the drone to come down without increasing airspeed.
“We are presently creating second-generation airplane with new functions included as a result of our learnings, and are eager to fly once again,” Facebook informed. “Each succeeding test flight will bring both expected and unanticipated technical obstacles, and will teach us more about the best ways to fly this experimental aircraft.
The Aquila drone, that has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 at 141 feet (43m), was developed with carbon fiber and weighs about 900 pounds (408kg). During the test flight on 28 June, the airplane remained aloft at low elevations for more than 90 minutes, longer than the team expected time of 30 minutes.
Facebook expects its Aquila drones to remain air-borne for up to 90 days at a time and offer broadband coverage to remote areas without dependable access to internet.
Although the crash was an obstacle in the Facebook’s strategies to bring internet access to locations all over the world through its Internet.org effort, the company did call the test flight a success in July regardless of the structural failure right before landing.