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Facebook’s second drone test raises the bar

Facebook Aquila drone
Facebook’s Aquila drone takes to the air. (Facebook Engineering Photo)

The drive to provide global internet access from the air is more of a horse race in the wake of Facebook’s second test flight of its full-scale Aquila high-altitude drone – a flight that the company said was more successful than the first one.

Facebook is developing the ultralight, solar-powered drone as a platform for beaming down network connectivity from a height of more than 60,000 feet, for months at a time. The idea is to provide internet service – including, of course, access to Facebook and its advertisers – to some of the billions of people who are in areas too remote for existing avenues of access.

A year ago, Facebook’s first test flight ended in a crash that substantially damaged the aircraft, apparently due to a gust of wind that put the drone in the wrong configuration for landing.

It took months for Facebook to fine-tune the drone’s design for the second flight, conducted May 22 at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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