Facebook announced back in November of last year that it was working with Airbus to develop better versions of what are known as high-altitude platform station, or HAPS, systems that can be built into aircraft to beam down the high-speed internet.
But today, according to reports from Mashable, the social giant announced that it is no longer pursuing its plan of developing its own high-flying drones for delivering internet, an initiative within its Aquila project that was started four years ago.
The news was tucked away in a blog post titled “High altitude connectivity: The next chapter,” written by Yael Maguire, a director of engineering at Facebook.
Facebook’s heart is in the right place
Initially, Aquila was Facebook’s bold stratosphere internet project that imagined gigantic drones running partially on solar power that could remain in flight for long periods of time and beam down LTE service to remote parts of the world.
Aquila was one of many ways, alongside other initiatives, that Facebook was trying to help the developing world and remote parts of Earth get online so that they too can become Facebook users.
One down, but many to go
The Aquila project conducted two public, high-profile test flights of a prototype drone, the first of which in 2016 resulted in serious damage to the aircraft during its landing reported CNET.
Now, instead of building aircraft of its own, Facebook says it will now focus on working with partners on high-altitude internet delivery systems and on policy matters related to securing spectrum and establishing federal rules around the operation of such systems.
It’s not over yet
“As we’ve worked on these efforts, it’s been exciting to see leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft,” Maguire writes.
“Given these developments, we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater.”
Maguire is referring to a facility in Bridgewater, England that headed up the Aquila project; specifically, the design and development of the prototype drone itself reported Gizmodo.
Maguire says the company is also “actively participating in a number of aviation advisory boards and rule-making committees in the US and internationally.”