project aquila drone

Facebook cancels internet-via-drone Project Aquila

Image credit: facebook

Facebook has cancelled its plans to provide internet to remote parts of the world using drones to beam signals down to the ground.

The social network has confirmed it is shutting down Project Aquila, which was first announced in 2014. The announcement also means the closing of a UK facility in Bridgwater, Somerset.

“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,” said Yael Maguire, director of engineering at Facebook.

“Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer and to close our facility in Bridgwater.”

The company said it would instead look to work with other firms such as Airbus on the technology around connecting more people to the internet.

The Aquila Project developed drones that were super lightweight and designed to fly at high-altitudes. The first one built in 2015, boasted a wingspan equivalent to a Boeing 737 and was solar powered. 

They had a long-term aim of being able to stay in the air for extended periods as part of a global network of aircraft that beamed internet connectivity to remote areas below.

Maguire said that while the project had been discontinued, companies in the aerospace industry were still investing in the technology so it could live on in some form, even if not under Facebook’s wing.

Fellow technology giant Google has also been testing its own take on high-altitude connectivity craft, using balloons rather than drones.

Called Project Loon, it was created inside the firm’s X Labs - the experimental project wing of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

According to the company, the balloons have already been used to provide internet connections to thousands of people in Peru displaced by floods in 2017 and to those in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria. 

Another project called Windhorse has developed edible drones that are filled with food, water or medicine to provide relief to people in disaster areas. 

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