SAN FRANCISCO, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Facebook announced Tuesday that it will scrap a solar-powered pilotless drone program that was initially designed to provide wireless Internet connectivity to areas not accessible to such a service.
Facebook invested heavily in the project, the company's Director of Engineering Yael Maguire wrote in an official blog, but the company plans to suspend manufacturing of the pilotless drones on its own, with many leading companies in the aerospace industry investing in this technology already, including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft.
"Given these developments, we've decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater," Maguire said.
However, he said Facebook will continue to cooperate with partners like Airbus on developing HAPS connectivity and other technologies needed to make this system work, such as flight control computers and high-density batteries.
He said Facebook will also go ahead with its investment in developing next-generation technologies to "help connect the 4 billion people who still do not have access to the Internet."
The Aquila program was a project that started from scratch, which involved aircraft design, development and testing and was led by a team in Bridgwater in Britain, Maguire said.
Maguire said that since it started to develop next-generation connectivity technologies like Aquila, a high altitude platform station (HAPS) system, in 2014, the global tech giant has conducted two successful full-scale test flights, including a textbook landing on "Aquila beach."
Aquila was originally created as part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative, which Facebook said earlier this year had connected about 100 million people to the Internet.