JUNE 27, 2018
Facebook is giving up on its plan to create drones that beam down internet connectivity, the company has confirmed.
Project Aquila, first announced in 2014, failed to achieve the long flight times managed by airborne connectivity efforts from rivals including Google.
In one test, Facebook’s craft suffered a broken wing as it came in to land.
On Tuesday the company said it would instead partner with firms such as Airbus to continue its efforts to connect more people to the internet.
The decision means the closure of a facility in Bridgwater, UK, that had been used to build the technology.
“It’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too – including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” wrote Yael Maguire, Facebook’s Director of Engineering, in a blog post.
“Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer.”
The Project Aquila craft had the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and weighed the same as a typical family car. It was solar-powered during the day and battery-powered at night, and in testing managed 90 minutes in the air.
However, Facebook’s efforts paled in comparison to Project Loon, a similar idea using high-altitude balloons rather than drones. It is being worked on by X, the experimental arm of Google parent company Alphabet.
Project Loon balloons have flown more than 15 million miles of tests, the company has said, with the longest continuous flight lasting almost 190 days. In 2017, the balloons were used by residents of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.