Facebook testing solar-powered plane to provide internet access

Facebook announced on its blog that its unmanned, solar-powered plane that could bring affordable internet to secluded areas has completed its first test flight. The plane, known as Aquila, can fly for up to three months at a time and has a wingspan of an airliner, but only consumes the same amount of energy as three hair dyers.

“When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems,” Facebook write in the blog.

Further tests are planned for the coming months with altitudes expected to hit that 60,000-foot mark.

Here is what Facebook had to say about using solar energy for Aquila:

“For a solar-powered airplane to work, enough energy must be collected during daylight hours to operate for the full 24-hour day. The amount of energy the airplane requires to power its propulsion, payload, avionics, heaters, lights, communications, and other systems has to be less than or equal to what the solar panels can collect. At its nighttime altitude of 60,000 feet, Aquila will require approximately 5,000 W of power — about as much as three hair dryers. During the winter, the solar panels must be able to collect enough energy during the short days to keep the batteries charged over the long nights, up to 14 hours at a time.”

If solar can provide enough energy to fly a plane around the world and support a three-month plane that can supply internet access, imagine what it could do for your home. If you are interested in a new solar system, make sure you contact us for a free site visit and solar need analysis, or simply give us a call with any questions you may have at 916.853.2700.

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