Facebook Took Its Giant Internet Drone On Its First Test Flight

An anonymous reader writes: A year ago, Facebook unveiled Aquila, its effort to put giant drones in the skies to beam Internet connectivity to areas in the developing world without mobile broadband Internet. Today, the company announced it has completed the first full-scale test of its Aquila drone, after months of testing one-fifth-size models. On June 28, the experimental aircraft (featuring a V-shaped wingspan the width of a Boeing 737) took off from the Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona, and flew for 96 minutes at low altitude, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many others watched in the dawn sunlight.. Possibly years of work remain before Facebook’s connectivity effort fully takes off, according to a head engineer, including figuring out how to keep the drones aloft for hours at a time, and how to effectively send Internet with lasers.Quartz points out that Facebook may not have been given the permission to test the drones. From the article:Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized its regulations for flying commercial drones in the US. These regulations, which require commercial drones to be kept within the line of sight of the person flying the drone, and that the drones be kept below 400 feet, do not go into effect until August. Prior to these regulations, any company wishing to fly or test drones outdoors in the US required an exemption from the FAA, called a Section 333. Quartz checked with the FAA last year to ask whether Facebook had one of these exemptions, and was told it did not. (We’ve asked the FAA again, and Facebook, to see if the company has since received permission to fly drones in the US.) The FAA has started to fine some companies that operate drones commercially without an exemption, including a nearly $2 million fine for a company that was flying drones over people in New York and Chicago without permission.


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