Aquila – Facebook’s strong solution to withstand competition from GOOGLE’s LOON and a new technology that will increase internet users and hence facebook users. Facebook successfully tested Aquila at Yuma,Arizona.Aquila is the unmanned lightweight solar powered high altitude drone, that will provide reliable,fastest,affordable and easily accessible internet . The flagship point of this project is that it is solar powered.It is created by Ascenta, well known as the creators of Zephyr,a high attitude pseudo-satellite . Satellites can beam internet to wide regions,but can’t support high density population.Cellular towers can support many users at a time ,but its expensive.Hence Mark Zuckerberg said flying Aquilas,is like a milestone for the company ,aiming at connecting the world.A similar program “LOON” was launched by GOOGLE in the past,flying helium balloons instead of aquilas,that beam internet to users on the ground.The maximum time these balloons stay aloft is 187days .But the major problem is that the balloons can’t be controlled directly. Aquila has a gigantic wingspan of 141 feet ,wider than Boeing 737(113 feet).
In order to facilitate aquila’s flight for a long ,its body is made as light as possible with carbon fiber composite. It weighs about 9000 pounds and can fly upto 60,000 feet.At this altitude aquila was using only 2,000 watts of energy.More than half part of the weight is because of the batteries.Intercommunication between a fleet of aquilas flying simultaneously is enabled through lasers.Lasers are monochromatic and coherent hence they transfer data 10 times faster and precisely to the target base stations.During daytime, Aquilas fly at very high altitudes above the clouds and save solar energy that will be utilized for its propellers ,communication payloads and heaters during night.
As they fly at high altitudes they should resist freezing and warmth climatic conditions,hence further studies are going on climatic impact on battery size,solar panel,etc.
Currently Ascenta could fly Aquila for 96 minutes,but further research and engineering is going on to hunt down new ways to increase the time for aquilas to stay in air for months together.If Ascenta can achieve this hurdle ,then sky will be dotted with aquilas that will keep traveling and transmitting data to the substations below.How amazing !!Free wifi everywhere!Even though aquilas are unmanned air vechils,the still need drivers.A team of pilots and engineers maintain its control and activities.But it is designed such that automatic takeoff and landing are facilitated . As its solar dependent,they is no need of frequent landing.If all the solar energy gets finished in moving the aquilas, then they cannot stay aloft for long periods ,hence they move at low speeds I.e.80 miles per hour.The wings are long and light ,so there will be significant deformation.Wings are made flexible and deformation is checked using computer models.Empowering the remote areas with internet services will promote global health and education.Facebook has spent about $20 million for Ascenta team..As the urge to use solar power is increasing,this would be a huge step to save economy and nature. Currently the company is aiming at designing drones the will fly at a stretch for 90 days .But they are many technical and engineering challenges to be solved to achieve this goal .Lets wait for the next reformed version that may fulfill the internet demands of next tech era.