Published: Sat, June 30, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Facebook halts production of UAS for internet delivery - UV - Unmanned Vehicles

Facebook halts production of UAS for internet delivery - UV - Unmanned Vehicles

"We've decided now is the right moment to focus on the next set of engineering and regulatory challenges for HAPS [high-altitude platform] connectivity", Yael Maguire, Facebook's director of engineering, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. It's not clear how many jobs will be lost or transferred as a result.

Four years ago, Facebook shared with the world its ambitious dream of building massive drones.

The social networking giant isn't abandoning the space altogether, but discovered that since it started the Aquila program in 2014, more companies have gotten involved in this area, including leading companies in the aerospace industry that started investing in the technology. The drone's main goal was to provide internet access in remote areas through a "High Altitude Platform Station", an aircraft with multiple transmitters which enable users based in remote areas to access the internet. It's not clear what will happen to the company and its technology now.

The company is also shutting down its facility in the United Kingdom which managed drone design and development and has reportedly laid off 16 employees.

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Launched in 2014, the Aquila team twice flew a prototype drone, though the craft suffered a broken wing as it came in to land during a 2016 test flight.

The project is being developed by X, the experimental research arm of Google parent company Alphabet.

Facebook has declared it will stop its aerospace division, that aimed to beam internet services through satellites, drones over poor connectivity zones.

It comes after Google in early 2017 also chose to shut down its internet drone project (formerly Titan Aerospace), and instead focus on its balloon-driven Loon initiative.

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The emails, procured by Business Insider, show that Facebook planned to build a drone facility in New Mexico. Most notably, Facebook also pulled Free Basics from Myanmar in September, where the company has been accused of enabling ethnic cleansing of the nation's Rohingya minority.

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Facebook also recently abandoned plans for next-generation kevlar padding to solve the craft's landing issues, the report said.

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