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Facebook drops quest to build internet drones
July 1, 2018, 1:59 pm
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Facebook announced last week that it would no longer pursue the development of high-flying drones for delivering internet as part of its Aquila project.

A spokesperson for Facebook clarified that the Aquila project itself will continue with its partners, and that the company was only abandoning its goal of designing and building in-house drones that could deliver internet.

The Aquila project, which was started four years ago, included a bold initiative to build gigantic drones that would beam down LTE services to remote parts of the world. The drones, a prototype of which was successfully tested, would be fueled partially by solar power, which would enable them to be airborne for long stretches of time.

A blog post penned last week by Yael Maguire, a director of engineering at Facebook, and titled ‘High altitude connectivity: The next chapter’, was the first indication that the social media colossal was abandoning the drone project.

The Aquila project conducted two public, high-profile test flights of a prototype drone, the first of which in 2016 resulted in serious damage to the aircraft during its landing. Now, instead of building aircraft of its own, Facebook says it will focus on working with partners on high-altitude internet delivery systems and on policy matters related to securing spectrum and establishing federal rules around the operation of such systems.

Aquila was one of many ways, alongside Internet.org and other initiatives, that Facebook is trying to help the developing world and remote parts of the world get online, so that they too can become Facebook users. Last November, Facebook had announced that it would be working with aerospace leader Airbus to develop better versions of what are known as high-altitude platform station, or HAPS, that can be built into aircraft for the purpose of beaming down high-speed internet.
 

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