Last week, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab announced the completion of the first full test flight of Aquila, the company’s unmanned solar powered airplane. Aquila has been developed in the hopes of using it to bring internet access to the 1.6 billion people living in remote areas in the world, where implementing existing network technologies is extremely challenging and costly.

The air craft, which can fly for up to three months at a time, has the wingspan of an airliner but a cruising speed that can consume as little as 5,000 watts, equivalent to the energy used by three hair dryers or a high-end microwave.


Facebook has stated the company hopes to use the aircraft to beam connectivity down to users on the ground from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimetre wave systems, as it circles a region of up to 60 miles in diameter.

The social media giant has been flying a one-fifth scale version of Aquila for several months, but this was the first time the full-scale aircraft was flown.

Testers kept the craft at a low-altitude. Facebook says they hope to take Aquila above 60,000 feet in the coming months.

The company stated that in order to meet their goal of keeping Aquila in the air to provide connectivity for three months at a time, however, many further advancements are needed.

“It will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve. It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they’ll be most effective,” Facebook stated on their blog.

The current world record for a solar-powered unmanned flight in flight is just two weeks.