In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg intrigued the world when he posted a video about connecting the globe via internet access. On June 28th, that idea was made into a reality with the first full-scale test flight of Aquila.
As Facebook’s first solar-powered plane, Aquila will be able to beam internet access to some of the most remote areas of the world. However, the unmanned plane with a wingspan wider than that of a Boeing 737 and weighing just shy of 1,000 pounds has quite a ways to go before it’s successfully unveiled for largescale use. During its flight over Yuma, Arizona, Aquila spent a total of 96 minutes in the air, where Connectivity Lab, Facebook’s engineering team, worked diligently to gather data that will be used for future improvements to the current model.
For instance, Zuckerberg envisions Aquila being able to fly for three months at a time without the need for frequent maintenance and repair stops. Likewise, his goal is to have Aquila reaching 60,000 feet. Not only would this reduce concerns regarding commercial airline traffic, but would allow Aquila to reach speeds of nearly 80mph.
In its current form, Aquila is using about 5,000 watts of energy it collects from the sun, enough to keep the plane running at night while simultaneously being able to communicate information back down to earth. Although there is no data regarding the range of internet accesses Aquila can presently provide, Facebook has set a goal of reaching people within a 60-mile diameter.
Eventually, Facebook plans to release an entire fleet of Aquilas in order to reach nearly 4 billion people living without reliable or any internet access.
Unfortunately, there are some who speculate that this seemingly humanitarian project is only geared towards Facebook’s market growth. In this sense, they see Zuckerberg making moves to boost the company’s stock market prices as it seeks to overcome its own set of challenges.
Whatever the case, this project is one of a kind, and will undoubtedly change the way in which people receive internet access for years to come.