Facebook’s dream of building a solar-powered aircraft has finally come to an end.
On Tuesday, Facebook’s Yael Maguire announced in a post that the company will no longer be pursuing its ambitious dream of making a solar-powered aircraft that could provide Internet to remote, underserved places.
Back in 2014, Facebook launched the Aquila program. The initiative was aimed at developing next-generation connectivity technologies, including the creation of a high altitude platform station (HAPS) system. The effort was spearheaded by a team of researchers in Bridgewater, U.K.
However, the company deemed that the project is no longer practical, prompting it to cancel the program.
“As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft. Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater,” Maguire wrote.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus on HAPS connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries. On the policy front, we’ll be working on a proposal for 2019 World Radio Conference to get more spectrum for HAPS, and we’ll be actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the US and internationally.”
The Bridgewater team was able to create a solar-powered plane which they flight tested in 2016. Unfortunately, it only resulted in structural failure, hard landing, and an NTSB investigation.
Maguire further said that Facebook would continue to “invest in developing next-generation technologies like Terragraph,” a new broadband tech which utilizes a V-band spectrum at 60GHz that enables multi-Gbps fiber-like speed, wirelessly. The company is also working on building new infrastructures like the fiber project in Uganda and is supporting programs like Express WiFi.