Aquila, a major component that will enable Facebook's plan to offer free internet to struggling countries, unfortunately suffered a failed test flight back in June and is now being probed by authorities.
Aquila Drone Test Flight Failure
The Aquila aircraft is currently undergoing an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a U.S. investigative agency overseeing civil transportation accident investigation.
Facebook hasn't shared much about the structural failure since it occurred late June, during the aircraft's first autonomous test flight.
Fortunately, there were no casualties as a result of the incident, but comes as the most recent dent in Facebook's plans to provide free internet access across marginalized territories.
Facebook's Aquila Drone
The Aquila is a pilot-less solar-powered aircraft able to hover aloft for three months, aimed to provide free internet access to countries at a disadvantage.
The drone is powered by four electric engines and sports a wingspan wider than a typical Boeing Co. 737 aircraft. It suffered a structural failure before landing, according to NTSB's investigation, which had been previously undisclosed.
Facebook remained positive despite the failure. In an email sent to Bloomberg, the company stated that it was able to verify several performance models and different components of the aircraft without major unexpected results.
"We are still analyzing the results of the extended test, including a structural failure we experienced just before landing," wrote Facebook.
Structural Failure Damage
According to a spokesman from the NTSB, the Aquila's structural failure can be classified as an "accident," which means that there was substantial damage.
The NTSB has yet to disclose its prelimenary findings with regard to the damage and the cause of the Aquila's structural failure. Expect due coverage when it hands out an official word.
Apart from this incident, Facebook also suffered a major blow in its plans when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded, damaging a Facebook satellite slated to provide internet access across Africa.
Another dent in its plans was when India snubbed Facebook's plan to offer free web services to its country. The offer was deemed as a masqueraded attempt for Facebook to encroach on the Indian internet market, instead of a philanthropic effort from the company.
All these hurdles paint a pale picture of Zuckerberg's goal of bringing free internet services to countries who simply don't have ample infrastructure to administer such. It's hard to say the extent of the Aquila's failure and it forebodes for the company's plans.
Do you think Mark Zuckerberg can still bring five billion users onto Facebook by 2030 with the help of Aquila, as he claims? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!