Facebook’s drones – made in Britain

Facebook's drones

In a warehouse in Somerset, the latest phase in Facebook’s bid for world domination has been taking shape.

Or, to put it less dramatically, the social network’s plan to connect millions in developing countries is proceeding.

It is called Project Aquila and involves building solar-powered aircraft which will fly for months at a time above remote places, beaming down an internet connection.

Two years ago Facebook bought small British business Ascenta, which specialises in solar-powered drones, and its owner Andy Cox is now the engineer running Project Aquila.

At the end of June, the first aircraft produced in that warehouse on an industrial estate in Bridgwater was dismantled and taken in pieces to Arizona. There, it was reassembled for its first flight.

The unmanned aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 but is only a third the weight of a typical family car, stayed airborne for 90 minutes and performed well. The fragile structure did suffer some damage when it landed in a stony field some way short of the runway.

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