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Facebook’s New Plane -- By the Numbers

Facebook's new plane weighs just about 880 pounds.


Facebook showed off details of its new Aquila plane on Thursday, an unmanned aircraft that will use lasers to help connect people to the Internet — it’s real, not science fiction. The plane is one of many Facebook plans to build, and it’s not the kind of drone mockup you’ve seen from companies like Amazon.

As Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering, said Thursday: “If you’re thinking of your little quad copters, this is not what we’re building.”

So what is Facebook building? Here’s a closer look:

  • 140 feet — The length of the Aquila’s wingspan, comparable to that of a Boeing 737.
  • 60,000 to 90,000 feet — The altitude at which the plane will fly. The Aquila is solar powered and is expected to stay in the air for three months at a time. Each day, as the batteries charge, it will rise to 90,000 feet and slowly drift down to 60,000 feet to conserve energy before starting the process over the following day.
  • 880 pounds — The total weight of the Aquila, which is less than a third the weight of a Toyota Prius, according to Facebook. The plane was built with a carbon fiber shell to keep it light.
  • 3G — The network quality equivalent that Facebook hopes to provide most people who connect to the drone. It also hopes to accommodate 4G/LTE networks when possible.
  • -70 degrees Fahrenheit — The temperature at the proposed flight altitude. Facebook is flying the plane well above commercial airliners in hopes of avoiding issues of congestion and weather. The altitude will also help multiple drones communicate with one another, Parikh says.
  • 50 miles — The radius of area that Facebook can cover with Wi-Fi access from each plane.
  • 1 — The number of planes Facebook has built to date. It ultimately wants to build an entire fleet.
  • 0 — The number of people who will actually fly inside the airplane, which is unmanned and controlled by an operator on the ground.
  • 2.5 billion — The number of people around the world Facebook estimates are currently out of range for mobile Internet access.

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