Facebook closes Internet distribution project using solar-powered drones
In 2015, Facebook announced its intention to implement a large-scale project to provide remote and hard-to-reach regions of our planet with wireless Internet. It was planned to do this with the help of an armada of unmanned aerial vehicles operating on electricity generated by built-in photocells. UAVs got the name Aquila. According to the developers, systems of this type can be in the air for a long time.
The weight of the device is rather big - 450 kilograms. Actually, the dimensions of the drones are also solid - they are not miniature aircraft, which are launched for pleasure. With the entire payload, the drone should have been in the air for about three months. The planned flight altitude of the drone is 20-27 km in order not to interfere with passenger aircraft to make flights. Unfortunately, today it became known that the company decided to abandon this project.
Many media began to guess about this even before the official announcement. Two key engineers working in the project left the company relatively recently. In addition, Facebook refused to rent space from America. This is a private space center, which is being built on a US-owned desert area of approximately 70 square kilometers. It is located in the state of New Mexico, Sierra County, USA.
Thus, it became clear that the company does not intend to launch the vehicles. Facebook’s partial rejection of its project is due to the fact that it is quite difficult to modify the spaceport for launching giant UAVs. To do this in any time sane and the task is almost impossible. This, in particular, is evidenced by the correspondence between Facebook and the administration of the spaceport.
Perhaps another problem is a drone crash on its first flight. Then the UAV was very badly damaged. It may well be that on Facebook, having learned about it, they decided not to improve the devices, but simply to abandon the project. The company planned to get permission from Facebook to fly a second drone, but did not.
Some tests were carried out , for example, in May of this year. But they could not be called large-scale.
When you create a drone, which must be in automatic mode in flight for three months, there is simply a huge number of problems. And they become even more complex, given the size and weight of the UAV. Added headaches and spaceport administration requirements. They demanded that the drones were safe for animals, archaeological monuments, birds listed in the Red Book. And this is not all requirements - they are much more.
In 2016 and 2017, the company hoped to use the terminal in the spaceport, which is owned by Virgin Galactic and is now practically not used. Here it was planned to build a specially designed hangar, which would have been created specifically for Aquila drones. From this cosmodrome it was planned to launch drones to a height of 18-27 kilometers. Also, the authors of the project planned to test the performance of the distribution of the UAV Internet in an area with a radius of about 50 km.
Anyway, now it is decided to abandon these plans. The division of the company, which was engaged in the project of Aquila, is closed, and with it eliminated 16 jobs that were associated with the project. True, Facebook will continue to work with its partners, for example, Airbus. The company will help create "high-altitude stations" like Aquila, but will not produce its own equipment of this type.
It is worth recalling that in general the company planned to provide residents of remote regions with Internet in order to get more users. Like any commercial enterprise, Facebook is concerned about future profits, the future itself and its place in it. And if it were possible to implement the project, hundreds of millions of new users would connect to the global network, a substantial part of which would become a user of the social networking site Facebook. The project to connect all these people was called “the next billion”. The company does not refuse from it, but it will be realized by several other means - with the help of partners.