The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating an accident that occurred during the first flight of Facebook’s Aquila solar-powered drone. No one was hurt in the accident.
The drone is intended to bring the Internet to remote reaches of the world by flying at a higher altitude than commercial planes and beaming data down to earth using lasers. The goal is for the plane to occupy a similar niche to satellites in providing access to remote areas, without the exorbitant launch costs that come with space-based communications technology.
Built with carbon fiber and weighing around 900 pounds (408kg)m ensuring it can fly for extended periods of time without landing. Facebook’s Aquila drone has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 at 141 feet (43m) with solar panels on the top.
NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told Bloomberg that the accident occurred at 7.43am local time and they have classified the failure as an accident, meaning the damage was “substantial,”. “There was no damage on the ground,” Knudson said.
The NTSB has not released any of its findings on the extent of the damage or the causes of the failure.
Aquila was developed in Bridgwater, Somerset, by a team Facebook acquired for $20m back in 2014. Formerly a consultancy called Ascenta, the team is led by 51-year old engineer Andrew Cox.