Facebook has struck a drawback in its strategies to utilize a solar-powered unmanned drone to offer internet access to developing countries, after it was revealed the American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has started an investigation into an accident on the drone’s first test flight in June.
At the time, Facebook referred the flight as “successful”: the drone, called Aquila, remained up for 96 minutes, 3 times the scheduled period. “We have a great deal of work ahead of us,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering and infrastructure, noted when Facebook unveiled the test flight, in late July. “In our next tests, we will fly Aquila quicker, greater and longer, ultimately taking it above 60,000 feet.”
In a second, more technical, blogpost released that exact same day, Facebook’s Martin Luis Gomez and Andrew Cox recognized the failure in passing. “Our first flight lasted three times longer than the minimum mission length, so we were able to gather data on how the structure and autopilot reacted under a variety of real-world conditions to help verify these forecasts,” they noted.
“We are still evaluating the results of the extended test, consisting of a structural failure we experienced just before landing. We want to share more information on this and other structural tests in the future,” Cox and Gomez added.
It has actually now come to light that the “structural failure” led to an NTSB investigation, as per a report observed by Bloomberg News. The failure was classified by the NTSB as an “accident”, which needs considerable damage.
The drone is planned to improve Facebook’s Internet.org job to bring a billion individuals online, by flying at a greater altitude than commercial aircrafts and beaming information down to earth utilizing lasers. The goal is for the plane to inhabit a similar niche to satellites in providing access to remote areas, without the expensive launch costs that feature space-based communications technology.
The drone is physically little more than a light-weight wing having solar panels on the top, guaranteeing it can fly for prolonged time periods without landing.
Aquila was made in Bridgwater, Somerset, by a group Facebook acquired for $20 million back in 2014. Previously a consultancy called Ascenta, the group is led by 51-year old engineer Andrew Cox.