Facebook successfully launches Aquila, the solar-powered drone that will beam internet to the masses

Today, Facebook announced the success of the first test flight of Aquila  — the social networking company’s solar-powered, high-flying, laser-shooting drone meant to bring speedy internet access to the furthest reaches of the globe.

Here’s the big moment, in a video shot by Facebook:

In an interview with The Verge’s Casey Newton, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shares some interesting statistics about Aquila, including the fact that it doesn’t fly very fast, topping out around 25 to 30 miles per hour. The idea, Zuckerberg says, is for Aquila to consume as little power as possible so it can stay aloft for long periods of time delivering internet access.

Previously, Facebook has said that it sees each Aquila as staying aloft for up to three months at a time. It has about the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs about a third as much as an average-sized car. 

Aquila is a key part of Facebook’s  Internet.org campaign, which aims to bring “the next billion” users onto the internet. Facebook envisions a whole network of these drones providing a mesh of internet access all over the world, especially in areas where traditional phone lines or cellular service won’t reach, though they likely won’t really hit the skies for real for another few years. But Facebook is facing competition from Google, which is developing both drones and air balloons designed to do the same thing. 

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