Facebook’s Aquila drone completed its second flight this past May during which it flew for an hour and 46 minutes. Facebook detailed the flight in a blog post and explained the modifications it made to the drone after the failure of the initial test. That first go somewhat failed when a 20-foot section of the wing snapped off during landing. A gust of wind knocked Aquila off its flight path, and the autopilot’s attempt to correct course resulted in the drone going faster than intended.
This time around, Facebook added “hundreds of sensors” to gather additional data; modified the auto-pilot software; installed a horizontal propeller stopping mechanism to support a successful landing; and added “spoilers” to the wings, which increase drag and reduce lift during the landing approach.
Understandably, Facebook goes into deep detail about how wind affects flight. The Aquila crew apparently monitors the wind throughout the day and uploads a landing plan based on the wind direction, so the drone lands upwind. Generally, Facebook says it learned from the failures of its first flight to improve upon its second.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg first conceptualized Aquila in 2014 as a possible way to bring internet to people. His goal is to have Aquila fully functional in only a few years.