(TNS) — As the pilotless flying wing came in for a landing, winds suddenly picked up. Facebook Inc.’s Aquila drone — powered by the sun and wider than a Boeing 737 jetliner — struggled to adjust. Just before landing, part of the right wing broke off.
That inaugural 2016 flight proved an inauspicious beginning for Facebook’s foray into Internet-beaming drones, but perhaps a fitting one. Two years later, the company pulled the plug on developing its own aircraft.
Since then, companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and SpaceX have placed big bets on providing Internet service around the world with thousands of small satellites. SpaceX’s plans are set to jump forward Thursday with a launch of 60 Internet-beaming satellites.
But don’t count out solar-powered, high-altitude drones — or giant balloons.
Advances in solar-cell and battery technology have made those technologies more feasible. Last month, Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp. said it would partner with California