Beijing time on June 27 morning news, Facebook announced today that it will no longer continue to develop high-altitude drones for Internet access services. This is part of the company‘s Aquila project launched four years ago.
Facebook engineering director Yael Maguire announced the news in a blog post “High-altitude connections: the next chapter.”
At the same time, according to US media reports, the suspension of the development of the project led to layoffs of 16 people, and the project leader Andrew Cox (Rod Cox) left in May.
The Aquila project originally planned to use solar energy to drive giant drones for long periods of time. These drones transmit LTE signals to remote parts of the world. On a broader level, Aquila, like Internet.org, wants to help users in developing and remote areas access the Internet and then become Facebook users.
The Aquila project conducted two public, high-profile test flights on a prototype drone. The first time in 2016, the aircraft suffered serious damage when it landed. At present, Facebook said that it will no longer manufacture its own aircraft, but will focus on working with other companies to develop high-altitude Internet transmission systems, handle policy matters related to spectrum allocation, and establish US federal-level rules around the operation of such systems.
Maguire said: “As we make these efforts, it is exciting that major companies in the aerospace industry are also investing in this technology, including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft. In view of these developments, we decided No longer designing or building your own aircraft and closing our facilities at Bridgewater.” Facebook’s facility in Bridgewater, England, specializes in the Aquila project, especially the design and development of prototype drones.
Last November, Facebook announced that it is working with Airbus to develop a system called “High Altitude Platform Station” (HAPS), a better version. This system can be installed on an aircraft for the transmission of high-speed Internet signals. Maguire said that Facebook is also actively participating in “a number of aviation advisory committees and rulemaking committees in the United States and internationally.”