On 28th June, 2016; from Yuma (Arizona); a solar-powered, unmanned lightweight aircraft “Aquila” took off from ground for the first time to create history for Facebook! Or I would say by Facebook. As this aircraft was designed and developed by Facebook team to introduce internet to everyone on the planet at an affordable cost and with better connectivity. So let’s see what’s actually Facebook’s Aquila aircraft project.
Facebook showed in this picture that which part of the world is connected to each other with 2G/3G/4G connections, the regions without any highlighted colors are the part of the Earth where one in a thousand or no one is connected to internet. There are some remote areas and places where even cable internet connection is not present at all.
As per Facebook “data” 60% of global population is not connected to the internet. So to give internet access to everyone at fair cost and good speed, Facebook had to come up with an answer. Team had to design and build an aircraft that flies at high altitudes, run with solar energy and provide internet connection to the world.
To provide internet to 7 billion people around the globe, first flight should take off easily and last at least last 30 minutes in the air without any problems. At the same time flight’s stability and data transfer abilities had to be checked by team.
So with these mission agendas in mind, in the morning with light sun light, Aquila went up in the air.
With the total wingspan of 141 meters, it was wider than a Boeing 737 plane.
Made with carbon-fiber material, it weighs only 900 ponds. That is lighter than a small city car.
This unmanned aircraft will fly in the air without any special help. It can be controlled by man from remote location! But Facebook will look forward for complete automation and will put human just to watch location and problems.
How it flew?
Unlike other vehicles, Aquila doesn’t have its own whole take-off mechanism and other equipment that take it in motion on ground and let it go up with its own speed. Aquila was mounted over a platform and dragged by another vehicle to get some motion, then when a certain speed was achieved, it was set free to go.
Not attaching take off accessories has its own benefits, keeping overall weight low was the point that comes on the top. As overall performance, battery life, speed depends upon it. Even next time they’ll have to mount some LASER communication stuff and other things that’ll ultimately increase the weight of the aircraft.
What it will do?
As you have seen the image provided by Facebook in the beginning, there are parts where internet is available, but the speed is not yet achieved. What happens in current case is in overpopulated areas, bandwidth is getting divided in many parts. That means an overcrowded city will have to suffer slow connectivity as many people are using same network provider at the same time.
Increasing number of towers might help? Answer is NO! building high towers and doing cable work of fiber optics is way too expensive. You can even do it in mega-cities, but how about that hundreds of kilometers wiring done to take network to remote areas?
So what Aquila will do? It’s simple, let me ask you another question, Why we build mobile towers? Now don’t Google it, answer is the higher you mount the antenna, the more area will be covered by it. So instead of building tall antennas, why don’t we take them in the air, so they can cover a larger region? So on this concept of taking antennas in the sky, they started this whole thing.
Aquila will fly above 60,000 feet, which in in between regulated airspace of normal plane and satellites. So it won’t create problem in airspace and above clouds, it will have sufficient sunlight. Two Aquila will interact with LASER to each other, Facebook has found out that LASER is a good form to share information in rapid way.
Even steering an aircraft is easier than other items like balloons or something. As per Facebook, at 60,000 feet, it uses only 5000W, on that equal power, you can run only 3 hairdryers. It stores solar energy during day and uses it in the night via a rechargeable battery. So by keeping weight low and proper tools, Aquila should last for months in sky to connect everyone! Let’s see how fast this idea of connectivity comes in actual world.
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