This week was a pretty big week for Facebook as their first ever unmanned Internet drone took flight. Overall it was deemed such a success, they kept it flying for an hour longer than planned.

Much like Google’s Project Loon, Facebook’s Aquila hopes to help provide Internet access to under-served areas, and while Google’s project involves giant balloons, Facebook’s approach is a little more traditional.

Aquila, as it’s called, is an unmanned, solar-powered aircraft that has a wingspan bigger than a Boeing 737, and this week it took its first flight out in Yuma, Arizona. Initially intended to be just a test run, the flight was so successful, the half-hour planned flight actually lasted for over an hour and a half.

It’s a success for Facebook, for sure, but it’s only the beginning as the company hopes to launch multiple drones that’ll exceed 60,000 feet and will beam Internet access to the ground below using lasers and millimeter wave technology. This will allow more rural areas to have access to the Internet.

A video on the flight can be seen below, and a more in-depth look at the test flight can be found via the Facebook blog as well as a lengthy editorial over on The Verge.

The reason Google and Facebook are keen to get their drones in flight is due to a good chunk of the world not having access to the Internet, and seeing as these are the two biggest companies on the Internet, it seems natural that they’d want to get everyone online.

The internet provides information, opportunity and human connection, yet less than half the world has access. We’re proud to announce the successful first test flight of Aquila, the solar airplane we designed to bring internet access to people living in remote locations. This innovative plane has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than a small car and flies on roughly the power of three blow dryers — incredible!

Posted by Facebook on Thursday, 21 July 2016

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