Meet Aquila, Facebook’s first completed internet drone

31 Jul 2015

Aquila, Facebook's first completed drone. Image via Facebook

It’s been some time in the making, but Facebook has finally been able to show us Aquila, its first internet drone that promises to beam speeds of 10Gbps to the surface below.

The Aquila solar-powered craft is certainly eye-catching, with its delta-wing design that has the same wingspan as a Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, with only a fraction of the weight.

Having been in development since Facebook announced the project to connect the entire world to the internet, the internet-beaming drone is now at the starting point of producing a whole fleet of its drones for launch in the next few years.

According to Facebook’s Connectivity Lab’s announcement, the craft’s carbon fibre body will allow it to fly at a height of between 60,000ft and 90,000ft, circling a remote region where internet connectivity is not available, for up to 90 days.

This first fully-designed model was built by Facebook’s aerospace team in the UK, but the company will begin testing the craft in its native US later this year.

Facebook’s VP of global engineering and infrastructure, Jay Parikh, also confirmed the successful testing of the laser that will beam the internet signal to the ground below.

According to Parikh, the team has broken all records of laser data transfer, achieving the speed of 10Gbps, which they claim is 10-times faster than what was considered state-of-art in industry circles.

Parikh also said that the laser will be incredibly accurate in terms of beaming signal down to the ground below, so accurate, in fact, that it could beam signal to a target the size of a US dime coin from more than 16km away.

Speaking of Facebook’s intentions, Parikh said: “Our intention is not to build networks and then operate them ourselves, but rather to quickly advance the state of these technologies to the point that they become viable solutions for operators and other partners to deploy.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic