November 21, 2017
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Facebook Drone's First Test Flight

(Reuters)

 

The social media company says its solar-powered drone successfully completed its first test flight. But as Fred Katayama reports, some developing countries have concerns.

It looks like a skeletal plane with oversized wings, but this is Facebook's solar-powered drone. The social media company says the drone named Aquila just successfully completed a test flight. The huge lightweight aircraft was aloft a few thousand feet high for 96 minutes, three times longer than its chief technology officer Mark Schroepfer had hoped. The goal: use it to extend internet access around the planet.

Soundbite: Mark Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer, Facebook, (English) saying:

"The idea of this is to loiter around an area at very high altitude, 60 to 90 thousand feet in the air, stand on station for months at a time and beam down backbone internet access."

Reuters global tech editor Jonathan Weber:

Soundbite: Jonathan Weber, Global Technology Editor, Reuters, (English) saying:

"There are concerns in a lot of developing countries that Facebook under the guise of providing internet connectivity is really just trying to get people signed up for Facebook."

Facebook's not alone. Google is testing high-altitude solar-powered balloons to deliver internet access to remote, underserved areas.