In May 2015, one of Google’s Internet drones, a Titan Solara 50, crashed during a test flight in New Mexico. The drone was solar powered and didn’t last long in the air before crashing in the company’s Albuquerque test field. This drone was part of Google’s larger effort to deliver Internet from the stratosphere; investigators began probing the cause of the crash following the incident.
It has been more than half a year since the May 1 accident, and investigators have announced the cause of the crash: a wing failure. The National Transportation Safety Board states the drone experienced control problems shortly after take off, and while the remote operator attempted the stabilize the plane, a “thermal updraft” sent it upward at a faster speed.
The wind ended up pushing the drone at a speed it wasn’t designed for, and the left wing experienced a failure as a result. Once the wing failed, the drone was no longer controllable and exhibited an “erratic flight path roughly straight ahead in a rapid descent.”
At some point part of the left wing broke free, and the right wing then failed. Shortly after, the drone hit the ground where it was completely destroyed, having only spent about 4 minutes in the air. These solar powered drones are relatively thin and small, but have very long wing spans — 164ft from tip-to-tip. Despite the speed bump, Google has continued with the project.