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Facebook hangs up its drone-building project

29 June 2018
Facebook hangs up its drone-building project

Maguire added: 'Given these developments, we've decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater'.

"Given these developments, we've decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer", Maguire wrote in the blog post. Using balloons, Project Loon's latest success was beaming internet access to over 100,000 users in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico in November past year.

The Aquila aircraft had the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and was solar-powered in the day and battery-powered by night.

Part of the four-year-old Aquila project, the HAPS (High Altitude Platform Stations) drones are leaving the limelight so Facebook can focus on the underlying technologies instead. Aquila was part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative, which is seeking to connect more people to the internet in unserved and underserved markets.

Facebook started working on the project in 2014. The drone's main objective was to provide internet access in remote areas through a "High Altitude Platform Station", an aircraft with multiple transmitters which enable users based in remote areas to access the internet.

'We made a decision to start from scratch and invest in the building blocks needed to make this technology work - most important of all, the aircraft, ' it said.

Facebook shares are higher Wednesday after the tech firm said it has altered its plans for global internet provision and is closing its Aquila drone programme.

Facebook says Aquila remained in the air at low altitudes for 96 minutes, more than three times longer than Facebook originally planned.

The first test flight in Arizona in June 2016 launched and flew as expected, though turbulence before touchdown resulted in the drone landing short of the runway and receiving damage to the right wing in the process. Another test flight followed.

Then, last year, Free Basics itself was hit by the growing concerns around Facebook's role in the media ecosystem of unstable democracies: the company pulled its free internet access from countries including El Salvador and Papua New Guinea.

Facebook also recently abandoned plans for next-generation kevlar padding to solve the craft's landing issues, the report said.

Facebook also said it was working with Airbus on HAPSs in November past year.