NTSB investigating the structural failure suffered by Facebook's Aquila drone on its test flight

By midian182
Nov 22, 2016
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  1. Back in July, it was reported that Facebook had completed the first test flight of Aquila, the solar-powered drone it hopes will bring the internet to remote corners of the world. At the time, the company painted the initial test as a success, but it seems that The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) disagrees.

    Buried in Facebook’s engineering blog – posted on the day of the test – are the only two sentences relating to the incident: “We are still analyzing the results of the extended test, including a structural failure we experienced just before landing. We hope to share more details on this and other structural tests in the future,” it reads, though the company never did release any new information.

    According to a Bloomberg report, the NTSB has classified the failure as an accident, which means Aquila was “substantially damaged.” The incident took place at 7:43 a.m. near Yuma, Arizona, but no one was injured and there was no damage to the ground.

    As noted by Mashable, the NTSB board requires operators of unmanned aircraft to report any accidents, and almost all of these are investigated in cases where the drone weighs over 300 pounds and requires a major repair. Aquila, which lacks a “traditional takeoff and landing gear,” weighs just under 1000 pounds and has a wingspan similar in size to a Boeing 737.

    Responding to Bloomberg's report, a Facebook spokesperson said the company was happy with the test flight, which had “no major unexpected results.” This could explain why it never disclosed the accident to the NTSB, and failed to mention that Aquila was substantially damaged during the numerous press interviews following the test flight.

    Facebook’s ultimate goal is for Aquila to fly for up to three months at a time and be able to travel with a diameter range of up to 60 miles. It will beam down data at tens of gigabits per second using its lasers, which will be received by towers on the ground and converted into a Wi-Fi or LTE network.

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  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,350   +1,993

    As much as Facebook and Google are competing for these significant type of development, I am surprised they have not started development of their own emEngine (NASA development). The cost of building a working model doesn't appear to be all that espensive. See article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/...le-emdrive-physics-peer-review-space-science/ As of this morning there was an article that the design has now passed a significant peer review so, while they don't exactly understand how it works, it still apparently does, busting a hole into Newtons 3rd law "for every action there shall be an equal reaction".

    Needless to say, the application for any low orbit vehicle would be ideal .... no? Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't see an article on here considering it's earth shattering ramifications .....
  3. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    Following this tangent: I wonder if we'll figure out if it isn't just photons that behave as both particle and wave. If X-rays can behave like a particle in the right circumstances, then it might explain the emDrive's behavior without violating Newton's third law (just like how a solar sail doesn't violate the third law).
    *edit* re-read. It was previously my understanding that the emDrive was an open system, using X-rays as thrust, not a closed system, bouncing X-rays inside of a sealed chamber.

    Back on topic: I still think these tele-drones are going to end up being a waste of R&D resources. You still need to build out infrastructure on the ground, they are just eliminating some long distance transmissions. But something tells me that we'll figure out an economic, high-bandwidth, long range wireless communication standard right around the same time these drones start being deployed.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2016

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