Internet access many be taken for granted by many, but some 4 billion people around the world are still missing. Facebook plans to tackle the problem with a range of technologies including its high-altitude solar plane Aquila, which has just completed its first successful test flight.
- The long-endurance aircraft was built in Somerset and has a wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 737
- It will eventually beam internet to remote areas from up to 90,000 feet to help increase access to the web
- The flight took place on 28 June at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in Yuma, Arizona
The solar-powered aircraft is designed to beam internet access to hundreds of millions of people in hard-to-reach areas around the globe. During its test flight – the first in a series of ‘functional checks’ – Aquila remained in the air for 96 minutes, more than triple the planned mission time. While in the air, the eco-friendly plane was consuming just 2,000 watts of power – around the same as a hairdryer. Eventually the plane will consume around 5,000 Watts once its reaches it cruising height and speed. The tech company collected valuable data during the test flight that it will use to tweak future designs. Future test flights are planned to be ‘faster, higher and longer’. Eventually, the solar plane will cruise at an altitude of 60,000-90,000 feet, beaming internet connectivity down to people on the ground. The plane has been designed to fly for up to three months at a time, and has a wingspan bigger than that of a Boeing 737.