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Facebook successfully completes trials of solar-powered drones in UK

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Facebook on Thursday confirmed its solar-powered “Aquila” drone has successfully completed its first test flight over the UK.

The test flights are part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative which aims to bring online access to billions of people around the world even in the most remote areas.

The solar powered drones are said to have a wingspan greater than that of a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a car. The drone can apparently fly at altitudes of more than 60,000ft, far higher than commercial airline flights, without landing for months. The driver-less aircraft will beam down Internet connections to the ground using laser technology.

“As part of our Internet.org effort to connect the world, we’ve designed unmanned aircraft that can beam internet access down to people from the sky. Today, I’m excited to share that we’ve successfully completed our first test flight of these aircraft in the UK,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg noted in a blog post announcing the achievement.

“Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 per cent of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure.”

Chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said “More than one-half of the world is still offline.”

“We want to change that, which is why we’re working to connect everyone through Internet.org. We’ve launched the Internet.org app in six countries, and nearly 7 million people have used it to get online for the first time.”

Facebook is expected to begin more test flights this summer.