A U.S. safety agency is investigating an accident involving a massive experimental drone Facebook Inc. is developing to bring the internet to remote areas of the world.
No one was hurt in the incident, which came during the unmanned aircraft’s first test flight on June 28. It marks the latest hiccup in Facebook’s plans to wirelessly connect the world, following an explosion earlier this year that destroyed one of its satellites and political resistance to the service in India.
The high-altitude drone, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing Co. 737 and is powered by four electric engines, suffered a “structural failure” as it was coming in for a landing, according to a previously undisclosed investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
In a web post after the flight, he said it was so successful it was extended from 30 to 96 minutes. “We gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure — and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground,” Zuckerberg wrote.
The accident was the second involving an unmanned aircraft designed to fly for long periods as a less expensive alternative to satellites. An Alphabet Inc. drone known as the Solara 50 was destroyed May 1, 2015, at a desert landing strip in New Mexico after experiencing control problems as it flew in a thermal updraft, according to the NTSB. Source