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Facebook's solar-powered internet drone takes flight

Facebook's solar-powered internet drone takes flight

While some have praised the company's ambition to connect the two-thirds of the planet without internet access, critics have suggested it is exclusively motivated by private gains.

The aircraft is expected to use the latest laser-beam technology to provide fast internet access for people in a 60-mile radius as it circles the area above.

Facebook has been conducting test flights of a smaller drone in its testing arena for the past few months.

This first functional check was a low-altitude flight and the aircraft flew for more than 90 minutes - three times longer than Facebook said it had originally planned.

While the first full test was successful, Facebook acknowledged that it has a long way to go before it reaches its goals with Aquila. He said that the company's main aim is to connect the world and help more of the 4 billion people access the fast internet.

Social media giant Facebook announced Thursday the first successful flight of its unmanned solar-powered aircraft - the Aquila drone.

Facebook's Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure, Jay Parikh spoke about how Aquila will continue to drive Facebook's goal of bringing internet access to everybody.

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"When Zuckerberg says that access to the internet is a human right, what he means is that access to Facebook should be a human right".

Aquila, named after the eagle in Greek mythology that carried Jupiter's thunderbolts, is based on technology developed by British company Ascenta, which Facebook bought in March 2014 for an estimated £12.5 million.

Aquila has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, but has to weigh as little as possible to stay up for as long as possible. Solar powered, it is created to consume only 5,000 watts, which is "about as much as three hair dryers".

Eventually, the company hopes entire fleets of the carbon-fiber drones will fly for up to 90 days at a time in the stratosphere, between 60,000 and 90,000 feet.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says "we gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground".

What do you think of Aquila's first official flight? This will require "significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve", Facebook admits. But more than half of the world's 7.4 billion inhabitants are not connected to the Internet.

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