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Strong Winds Crash Landed Facebook’s Internet Drone: Report

Image courtesy: Google

Drones are highly famous in today’s time due to its increasing versatility and applicability in various practical conditions. Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila has crashed during its inaugural test flight in Yuma, Arizona during summer. It occurred due to highly strong winds which federal investigators concluded on Friday.

According to the report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, drone has encountered an unexpected, powerful gust of wind as it came in for a landing purpose. It made difficult for the unmanned drone for maintaining its correct angle of descent.

Source: Facebook – YouTube

Reasons for Flight Failure:

In one of the blog post, Facebook said during final seconds of the flight that the aircraft flew into “higher than expected wind conditions” as it was descending. It lifted the craft above its glidepath. Autopilot then responded by means of lowering the nose of the aircraft down for compensation and further lifted the laps which are called elevons on its wings upward.

NTSB report adding to the same says, “The combination of high airspeed, up elevon, and low angle of attack resulted in increased downward downward lift (and torsion) on the outer wing panels. This loading exceeded its structural limit and resulted in a downward deformation and failure of the right wing.”

There were no injuries or ground damage done during the crashing. According to Facebook, “autopilot was unable to track both the airspeed and glidepath simultaneously, and gave too much priority to tracking the glidepath at the expense of not limiting the airspeed.”

Social media giant even said that they are already working over incorporating possible fixes in future designs and flight tests. It even included a drag device which allows the drone to descend without increasing airspeed.

Structure of Drone:

Facebook further adding to the same says, “We are already designing and building second-generation aircraft with new features added as a result of our learnings, and are eager to fly again. Each successive test flight will bring both expected and unexpected technical challenges, and will teach us more about how to fly this experimental aircraft.”

The Aquila drone which is having a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 at 141 feet (43m) was built by use of carbon fiber and is weighing about 900 pounds (408 kg). During the test flight on 28th June, aircraft remained aloft at lower altitudes for about 90 minutes. It is longer than expected by the team of time of 30 minutes.

Facebook is expecting its Aquila drone to stay airborne for duration of up to 90 days at a time and providing broadband coverage to remote areas without reliable access to internet. The crash was a setback in the plan of Facebook for bringing internet access to the areas around the world via Internet.org initiative. Yet, company calls the test flight a success in July despite the structural failure just before landing.

Facebook says, “Providing connectivity with solar-powered aircraft is something that hasn’t been done before, and there are still a lot of hard science and engineering problems to solve. This is a hard, years-long challenge, and things will break along the way — that’s the nature of engineering. Our results from the first test flight have solidified our confidence in the Aquila program and what we can potentially achieve with this technology.”

Further adding they says, “We intend to push the plan to its limits so we can learn more, learn faster, and reach our ultimate goal of connecting people sooner.”

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