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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It looks computer generated, but it’s not.

mini-falcon Thanks to the miracle of Quadcopters this amazing vantage point is possible. In and of itself, the technology that makes this perspective possible is worth getting excited about. But wait! There’s more… SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Reusable rocket (Falcon 9R  of f9R for short) soared roughly 820 feet (250 meters) into the air at the company’s rocket development facility in Texas, then came back down for a soft landing on the launch pad as planned. All of the action was captured in a dramatic two-minute Falcon 9R reusable rocket test flight.

While the video features the labor of love at the center of the F9R testing program, The Falcon 9 Reusable taking its first test flight at the remote rocket development facility… a talented crew piloted Quadcopters to capture the history-making test flight. The lift off from a launch mount to a height of approximately 250m, which is the length of nearly three football fields is awesome to watch. F9R hovers & then returns for landing just next to the launch stand.

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Click this image to view F9Rs capabilities.

Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. F9R_FeetSoon legs that transition like landing gear after liftoff, will be stowed against the side of the rocket & then extending back out just before landing.

This project is the next step towards reusable spacecraft. Period.

Since completion of the Grasshopper program last year (Grasshopper can be seen in the background of this video near the end) Testing will continue in New Mexico, using the first stage of a F9R shown here (which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs) at higher altitudes than are permitted for at the test site in Texas. More is sure to come with unpowered guidance & proving landing use cases that are more-flight like.

We all can’t wait!

Learn more about SpaceX, The F9R and this historic test flight  |  Tour of Space X  |  Press Release