About a month ago, the social media giant Facebook announced that they were discontinuing their massive drone project. This particular endeavor involved a drone the size of a passenger plane. The drone, Aquila, will then spread its wings and roam the planet, providing free internet access to those around it. With the solar panels built into its massive frame, theoretically it can stay in the stratosphere for months – if not years – at a time.
But, that was all for naught. Or maybe not.
Zephyr Breaking Records:
Although Facebook dropped the baton, someone else managed to pick it up. The European aerospace company Airbus have been working on their own drone, parallel to that of Facebook’s. This one, the Zephyr S, also has similar aspirations. The massive wings on this behemoth also showcase an array of solar panels.
But unlike Facebook’s Aquila, who faced massive problems and failures in development, Zephyr flourished.
Recently, a test flight on Zephyr broke a world record. With its massive wings giving it a power source, it can, like Aquila, stay in the skies for a long time. Airbus’ latest test flight involved the Zephyr flying continuously without landing for recharges or repairs. The flight lasted over 25 days. Apparently, it could have reached 26 days, but it was a mere 3 minutes away when it landed. The journey provided the Zephyr with the title – where it alone stands – as the longest continuously-flying aircraft.
The Zephyr’s record breaking flight started July 11 and landed earlier this week. Although 25 days was a lot, Airbus says they are only beginning. Their target for the near (or far) future with the Zephyr and its descendants is to fly unmanned – and continuously – for multiple years at a time. But of course, that may still be years, if not decades away from coming to fruition.
Unlike Aquila though, Zephyr seems to not have any plans with spreading internet connections. For Airbus’ creation, they see it more as a possible cheaper alternative for satellites. Both the overall costs as well as maintenance would be far cheaper compared to launching a satellite to space.