Facebook Halts Its Internet Drone Project, Aquila

Facebook had sought to beam internet access to remote areas with the help of drones. But the project has been abandoned.

Facebook has made splashy announcements over the last four years about building a fleet of solar-powered drones, with wingspans bigger than a Boeing 737, beaming internet access to people around the world who can’t otherwise get online. (When you have as many users as Facebook, finding new ones requires some ingenuity.)

On Wednesday, the ambitious effort was halted.

Facebook announced in a blog post that it would no longer build the drones. The company said that it was still committed to the original goal of bringing more people online, but that it would instead rely on other companies to build aircraft. A plant in western England where the planes were being manufactured will be closed.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, had envisioned drones powered by the sun, flying for months without landing, 60,000 feet above far-flung areas. The aircraft filled a warehouse, but weighed as much as a grand piano. After a successful test flight in 2016, Mr. Zuckerberg hailed the project as “something that’s never been done before.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Adam Satariano