Facebook Project Aquilla Drone

Facebook’s Internet Drone : Project Aquila

Despite recent setbacks in India (Facebook’s Free basics), Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is still pushing on his goal to connect the world through his philanthropic organization, Internet.org.

To reach everyone, Internet.org takes a multi pronged approach. Facebook has hammered out business deals with phone carriers in various countries to make more than 300 stripped-down web services (including Facebook) available for free. Meanwhile, through a Google X–like R&D group called the Connectivity Lab, Facebook is developing new methods to deliver the net, including lasers, drones, and new artificial intelligence–enhanced software. Once the tech is built, a lot of it will be open-sourced so that others can commercialize it.

Facebook Aquila Project Drone
FB’s Project Aquila, a solar powered Drone

Project Aquila

Aquila, a new aircraft architecture, one that can support staying in the air for months at a time. Aquila is solar powered, and when launched, it will create a 50-km communications radius for up to 90 days, beaming a signal down to the people in that area. This signal will be received by small towers and dishes that will then convert it into a Wi-Fi or LTE network that people can connect to with their cellphones and smartphones.

Facebook Aquila & Laser Technology
FB’s connectivity lab technology including high-altitude aircraft, satellites, free space optics, and terrestrial solutions

The Technology Behind

To make all of that possible,  the plane had to be really big and really light. Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 airplane but weighs a third as much as an electric car. The monocoque wing is made from a cured carbon fiber that is stronger than steel for the same mass of material. Before it’s cured, the material is flexible, so it can be molded into the right shape.

Aquila will fly at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet during the day — above commercial air traffic and above the weather. The air at that altitude is thin, about 5 percent that of sea level, so utilizing a high aspect ratio wing and an under cambered airfoil in the design to optimize its lift-to-drag ratio. During the day, the aircraft will fly at 90,000 feet to maximize its ability to charge its solar cells. At night, it will glide down to 60,000 feet, taking advantage of gravitational potential energy to consume less power.

What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says ?

“We’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone. Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft.”, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

 

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References

  1. https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101322049893211
  2. https://code.facebook.com/posts/993520160679028/building-communications-networks-in-the-stratosphere/
  3. http://www.wired.com/2016/01/facebook-zuckerberg-internet-org/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/31/facebook-finishes-aquila-solar-powered-internet-drone-with-span-of-a-boeing-737
  5. http://techno-stream.net/facebook-ready-to-test-giant-drone-for-internet-service/