Facebook's Aquila drone completes second successful test flight

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The aircraft flew for a duration of 1 hour and 46 minutes, with a successful take-off and landing.

The team also prepared a 500-foot circle of level gravel, about 6 inches deep on which Aquila would land.

Aquila's second flight on 22 May saw the drone take-off just after dawn.

Facebook said it has completed the second test for bringing internet to remote part of the world using unmanned aircraft. As Facebook shows in a short video, all the motors stopped as planned but only one propeller locked horizontally. A lot of tests also have to be done with the communications components, propellers, and solar panels to see how they fair on prolonged flights and in different altitudes and temperatures.

For this second flight, Facebook said it improved upon the lessons it learned past year. The drone climbed at a rate double that of the first test flight - it ascended at 180 feet/minute, which, according to the team was a result of a number of "refinements" made to the Aquila platform as a result of info gleaned from the first test. The aircraft is created to fly at between 60,000 and 90,000 feet to avoid commercial air traffic.

The drone has the wingspan of a commercial airliner but only runs the power equivalent of three hair dryers.

The team plans on using the lessons learned in the second flight to continue tweaking the almost 900 pound (408 kg), carbon fiber aircraft. "The data from these 'trim shots, ' as they're called, will be used to refine our aerodynamic models, which help us predict the energy usage and thus optimize for battery and solar array size".

Engineers said they had learned from past experiences and modified the aircraft in advance to avoid the problems that caused Aquila's first flight to end in an accident.

Facebook's Aquila drone has a wingspan wider than that of a Boeing 737 jet, but it's created to run on as much power as three blow dryers.

Aquila, a solar-power aircraft with a wingspan of a Boeing 737 which that is meant to beam the internet to those parts of the world that fibre optics and WiFi can not reach, a solar-power aircraft with a wingspan of a Boeing 737.

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