Facebook Drone Crash Under NTSB Investigation

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Aquila, Facebook’s ambitious drone that could bring high-speed internet to remote parts of the world, is being investigated by a government agency for an accident that took place during a test flight in June.

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The social media giant downplayed this “structural failure” in the aftermath of the initial test, and did not disclose that they were being investigated.facebook-has-said-internet-speeds-from-its-aquila-drone-will-be-similar-to-what-youd-find-over-fib-png

Bloomberg reports that the National Transportation Safety Board has been engaged in a previously undisclosed investigation into the accident, which took place as the done was landing on the morning of June 28.

The unmanned drone, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing Co. 737, suffered a “structural failure” as it was coming in for a landing after an otherwise successful test. The NTSB as classified the incident as an accident, which means the damage was “substantial,” according to Bloomberg. There were no injuries on the ground.

 

Neither Facebook nor the NTSB have released further details about the accident.

With the exception of half a sentence in the eighth paragraph of a post on Facebook’s engineering blog in July, the company didn’t address this failure. Mark Zuckerberg was exclusively positive when he wrote about the test on his blog in July. Facebook didn’t disclose the NTSB investigation, nor did anyone at the company mention the extent of the damage in multiple interviews, according to The Verge.

Aquila certainly seems like a noble endeavor, and it’s understandable (if more than a little shady) that Facebook would want to focus on the positive aspects of the test rather than a crash landing. But, as we’re learning, you can’t always believe what you read on Facebook.

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U.S. Navy Deploys First Laser Weapon

While the days of a science-fiction future full of fury at the hands of James Cameron looking robots wielding weapons of untold lethality remains a distant thought… deployment of the first laser weapon (LaWS) into combat by the U.S. Navy is a sign we are getting closer.  120730-N-PO203-076

The futuristic weapon has boosted the arsenal of the Fifth Fleet’s command vessel in the Persian Gulf. The laser is said to be effective against numerous small targets, such as Iran’s gunboats.

A 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System has been equipped on the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship since late August, Navy officials told Bloomberg.

USS Ponce

USS Ponce

The device is capable of focusing beams from six solid-state commercial welding lasers into a single strong beam, which can be used both as a blinding warning shot and as a weapon capable of setting fire to a drone or small boat.

It took Naval Sea Systems Command technicians seven years and $40 million to develop the technology to the current stage. The tour in the Gulf is more of a trial continuation than regular duty, as the Navy wants to learn more about its new tool.

The technology’s big advantage is its operational efficiency, as firing one shot costs just around $1, the Navy stressed. But lasers have their own peculiarities, with their efficiency depending on weather conditions, the presence of dust and vapors in the air, and other factors. The range of the laser, which is limited by those factors, remains classified.

There is also the issue of power, which the laser weapon requires in abundance – hence its deployment by the Navy on a warship with powerful generators.

Back in April, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, called the deployment of the laser on the USS Ponce “a worthwhile experiment” because “it’ll help us feel out the operational limitations” such as power constraints.

It was crucial to learn how the system would operate in the environment and how much energy it would consume, Kendall added.

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The fact that the USS Ponce is stationed in the Persian Gulf “provides a unique platform” to deploy the laser “in an operationally relevant region,” Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Miller told Bloomberg in an email.

The US Navy has been boosting its presence in the area since 2011. The US targeted Iran’s oil industry and financial sector with economic sanctions aimed to put leverage on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

Amid the tensions, Iran threatened to close the Persian Gulf’s bottleneck, the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the global oil trade passes. Washington’s response was that it would use its Navy to prevent such a blockade.

Iran’s supposed plan to stifle the oil trade of its Gulf rival relied on large US warships with swarms of fast, small boats. Incidentally, the Pentagon’s new weapon is designed to destroy small, fast-moving targets.

However, in an interview earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert stressed that the laser does not specifically target Iran.

“I wouldn’t target a country for a weapon, nor would I preclude putting together a weapons system for a country by itself,” Greenert said.

|  Read More About This Advanced Weapons System 

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