Facebook’s internet beaming drone just completed its first test flight

Facebook has completed a test flight of its Aquila drone – a solar powered plane capable of beaming internet to remote areas.

Built with a carbon fibre frame and solar panel-coated wings, Aquila can stay airborne for months and was first shown off last year.

Facebook says the drone “has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a small car and flies on roughly the power of three blow dryers”.

The idea is to keep the plane aloft for 90 days at a time, beaming internet to people in regions that would otherwise not have access.

Related: Flying a drone – Everything you need to know

The test itself was conducted on June 28 and allowed the team to try an unconventional takeoff method using a dolly to propel Aquila down the runway to takeoff speed.

It’s all part of Facebook’s Internet.org campaign, which aims to bring internet to a billion users who would otherwise be without it.

The company plans to eventually release a network of the drones, which beam broadband access to the ground via lasers, to establish full internet coverage for large parts of the world.

It’s unlikely the project will get going in any real capacity for a few years yet, but this latest test, which went well for Facebook, shows the firm is still wholly committed to its cause.

Google is also working on a similar project using drones and air balloons, so it will be interesting to see which company manages to get these things working in a real sense first.

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