Facebook is ditching its plans to build a large internet-supplying drone, the company announced Tuesday, a significant decision given the investment and ambition of the project.
Known as Aquila, a “next-generation connectivity” technology, the unmanned aerial vehicle was in the initial development stages, but was a prized goal of the social media startup–turned–tech giant. It was going to be placed at a high altitude in areas of the developing world that lack access to the internet.
But due to “leading companies in the aerospace industry” starting to make major headway in the “construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” “the global regulatory environment” and other developments, “we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer,” Yael Maguire, director of engineering at Facebook, wrote in a company blog post under the code section.
Facebook, though, doesn’t seem to see it as a waste. Through its work and with the help of researchers, the company says it was able “to demonstrate that an aircraft of this design was viable — with two successful full-scale test flights, including a textbook landing on ‘Aquila beach.'”
“Facebook has already connected nearly 100 million people as a result of our efforts,” Maguire continues. “And we are continuing to invest in developing next-generation technologies.”
Not everything worked out so swimmingly in this general endeavor, as a Facebook-backed advanced internet satellite was destroyed when Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket exploded upon liftoff at a Cape Canaveral launch pad through collateral damage. And Aquila itself crashed during its first test flight in June 2016, eventually triggering an investigation by The National Transportation Safety Board. (RELATED: Facebook’s Internet Drone Exploded, According To US Investigations)
Due to the latest move to end the building of its own aircraft, a facility in the U.K. is closing and 16 staff members have reportedly been laid off.
Facebook says it will continue to produce critical components like computers and batteries.
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