Facebook’s internet providing drone Aquila faces structural failure, goes under investigation

The high-altitude drone having a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 suffered a structural failure during its landing. The report comes from a previously undisclosed investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.


On 28 June, Facebook successfully tested its super sized drone called Aquila which is being developed to bring internet to remote areas around the world. A new development has now revealed that it actually wasn't fully successful.

The high-altitude drone having a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 suffered a structural failure during its landing. The report comes from a previously undisclosed investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. According to the NTSB, no one was hurt in the incident and there was no damage to the ground either. The failure is however classified as an accident, which means that the damage was substantial. A substantially damaged aircraft means that it is no longer airworthy.

A quick recap, Facebook had revealed at time of testing that the Aquila is the first of its kind solar powered unmanned plane that can beam down internet from the sky. Weighing less than a car it can stay in the air for months. It has the ability to hover between 60,000 feet and 90,000 feet and transmit internet using laser communication.

Jay Parikh, Vice president of engineering said, “Our mission is to connect everybody in the world. This is going to be a great opportunity for us to motivate the industry to move faster on this technology. Similar drones will be used to expand internet access across the globe in the future”

The Aquila is one of the initiatives that Facebook has taken to spread internet especially in countries where there is limited or no access. Facebook had also launched Internet.org last year to provide internet access to the two-thirds of the world that do not have a reliable connection, but it wasn’t very successful as the company’s idea of net neutrality was unfavourable especially in India.

Following the tests of the ‘Internet drone’, Facebook had sent a statement to Bloomberg saying “We were happy with the successful first test flight and were able to verify several performance models and components including aerodynamics, batteries, control systems and crew training, with no major unexpected results.”

Until now, there was no mention of the NTSB investigating the incident. It is notable that if the test flight was indeed successful (according to Facebook), then why is the investigation happening in the first place? Why was the involvement of the NTSB kept a secret?

Recently a Space X rocket had exploded during it launch which was carrying a Facebook satellite that would have helped spread internet access across Africa.

Find our entire collection of stories, in-depth analysis, live updates, videos & more on Chandrayaan 2 Moon Mission on our dedicated #Chandrayaan2TheMoon domain.