Facebook Abandons Plans to Build Its Own Internet Drones

JUN 27, 2018 (BE2C2): Facebook announced it would be scrapping plans to develop its own flying Internet drones, an initiative that started four years ago.

In a Tuesday blog post, the social network said work on Project Aquila, which was intended to bring Internet access to remote parts of the world by using gigantic drones running on solar power, would come to an end.

Facebook said it had two successful full-scale test flights during the years spent working on the project and noted the initiative took lots of “trial and error.”

“As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too – including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” Facebook’s Yael Maguire wrote in the post.

“Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater [in Great Britain].”

A photo of the first Aquila high altitude aircraft being built by Facebook in England. Facebook said Tuesday it was shutting down the project, four years after its start.

The company said it would instead partner with firms such as Airbus to continue its efforts to bring more people access to the Internet and will close the British facility involved in the project. Instead, it will focus on working with partners on high altitude connectivity and aviation policy, according to Yael Maguire, a director of engineering at Facebook.

“Connectivity for everyone, everywhere is one of the great challenges of our generation,” Maguire wrote. “Facebook has already connected nearly 100 million people as a result of our efforts.”

Project Aquila (Latin for “eagle”) began in Bridgewater, England, where a drone with the wingspan of a 737 airplane was produced by Ascenta, a British business that Facebook bought for its solar-powered drone expertise.

The unmanned drone was meant to fly far above commercial airspace — at 60,000 feet or more — where there would be no commercial airplanes and no weather to worry about. It would circle a region for a few months at a time, powered by batteries and eventually the sun, and send internet signals to antennae on the ground.

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