Facebook Aquila drone crash under investigation by NTSB

Facebook has been flying a drone aircraft in testing that it hopes to be able to use to beam internet access to unserved parts of the world. The first test flight of the massive unmanned drone occurred on June 28 of this year. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the test flight in June was a success. However, there was a significant issue with that test flight as the aircraft came in for a landing.

During the landing process the aircraft suffered some sort of structural failure and crashed. The NTSB is classifying this an accident, which in their parlance means that there was substantial damage to the aircraft. Reports indicate that Zuckerberg was on hand for the test flight on June 28.

Zuckerberg had noted in a post he made after the flight that the test was so successful that the initial flight was extended from 30 to 96 minutes. He wrote in the post, "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."

The Facebook drone has a massive wingspan that is larger than that of a Boeing 737 helping the aircraft to fly at high altitudes. Power comes from a quartet of electric engines and the plan is to eventually make the aircraft solar-powered so it can stay aloft for long periods.

Most of the construction is carbon fiber making it weigh in at 900 pounds despite its wingspan of 141-feet. The entire aircraft is a flying wing design with no fuselage. The on-board laser communications system capable of delivering internet speeds ten times faster than current tech.

SOURCE: Bloomberg