Facebook halts production of drones for internet delivery

Nearly one year ago to the day, Facebook's solar-powered Aquila drone completed a successful test-flight in Arizona, with hopes of one day using the unmanned aerial vehicle and others like it to spread internet access to rural and remote areas across the world.

In a post, director of engineering at the company, Yael Maguire, writes that Facebook has seen companies in the aerospace industry investing in this technology as well.

Facebook's drone project had been competing to some extent with Google's Project Loon, which uses enormous high-altitude balloons instead of pilotless aircraft to carry the necessary equipment for enabling internet connectivity.

The Aquila drones are slightly larger than a Boeing 737 in terms of wingspan, though they lack the standard landing gear that aircraft typically have as part of an effort to reduce weight. Prior to the shutdown, Facebook had conducted two public test flights with the Aquila, one of which saw the plane.

Facebook bought the company in March 2014 for £12 million to further its Project Aquila project. The drone's main objective was to provide internet access in remote areas through a "High Altitude Platform Station", an aircraft with multiple transmitters which enable users based in remote areas to access the internet.

Maguire is referring to a facility in Bridgewater, England that headed up the Aquila project; specifically, the design and development of the prototype drone itself reported Gizmodo.

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Indeed, Facebook said the option to provide the internet from drone tech was affordable and a realistic option to help grow connectivity beyond traditional boundaries.

In 2016 for its inaugural 90-minute flight over the Arizona desert, the Aquila drone unfortunately crashed landed, which the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the U.S. blamed on "an increasing amount of turbulence".

Facebook may be a business powerhouse, with its stock having recently settled in well above its pre-Cambridge Analytica high, but that doesn't mean Mark Zuckerberg's company is immune to financial realities.

Insider reported separately that as part of the shutdown of the program, Facebook has closed its drone development center in the United Kingdom and has laid off 16 employees who had been working on the program.

Facebook says it will continue working on internet delivery systems with partners.

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