At a Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) conference on ‘UAS in daily life’, Internet giant Facebook revealed more details of its secretive Aquila solar-powered UAV project.
Director of Aeronautical Systems, Martin Gomez, said the goal was thousands of solar-powered Aquila UAVs, which would stay aloft for three months at a time to provide cheap broadband connectivity in places where ground infrastructure was limited. Lacking a landing gear, take-off is via a towed trolley while the aircraft recovers by feathering its props and landing on its nacelles, which contain the batteries. Gomez said that the concept of operations would mean that traditional airports would not be used – instead Aquilas would be flown from a grass circular WW-2 style field. In addition, because of the slow-speed of the UAV, the bases will need to be fairly close (within a couple of hundred nm) to the operating area.