Facebook ceases Aquila drone development

The company puts an end to its carbon-fiber WiFi drone program, opting instead to partner with aviation companies also working to develop the technology.

Facebook (Menlo Park, CA, US) has announced an end to its Aquila internet access drone development program, which began in 2014. The carbon fiber, solar powered drone was designed to provide WiFi coverage for billions of people around the world without internet access.

In a June 27 blog post, the company announced it will no longer be working to develop its own aircraft but instead partner with other aviation companies who are also working on the technology.

According to a statement from Facebook:

As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft. Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater. Going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus [Toulouse, France] on HAPS [high altitude platform station] connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries. On the policy front, we’ll be working on a proposal for 2019 World Radio Conference to get more spectrum for HAPS, and we’ll be actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the US and internationally.

More details about the Aquila aircraft can be found in a recent CW article “Drones: Composite UAVs take flight” by Michael Legault.