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Facebook's (FB) Aquila Successfully Completes Second Test

Facebook, Inc. FB has completed the second functional test flight of its internet-beaming drone, named Aquila, designed to extend internet connectivity to remote places throughout the world in future, per the company’s blog post.

Facebook’s internet-beaming drone is a slow-moving aeroplane, with a tremendous wingspan measuring 141 feet, and is built with carbon fiber to be lightweight to keep it airborne for ultra-long periods. Flying as high as 65,000 feet in the air, Aquila uses lasers to transmit data to other aircrafts as well as receivers on the ground that then convert signals into internet access.

In Jun 2016, Aquila's first flight attempt had ended in a crash landing after it flew above the Arizona desert for one hour and 36 minutes. Nevertheless, the company called it a success despite the drone suffering a damaged wing.

During the second test on May 22, Aquila flew for an hour and 46 minutes before landing near the aviation testing facility in Yuma, AZ, where Facebook's team of aeronautical platforms had been working on their first internet drone.

Facebook engineers reportedly made a number of changes to the drone since its inaugural test flight, including spoilers on the aircraft’s wings in order to create drag and so reduce lift during the landing approach.

Notably, Aquila is among Facebook’s most ambitious projects to develop airborne/wireless technology that will help deliver Internet services in the remotest parts of the world. Eventually, Facebook missions to bring internet to all the 7 billion plus people on Earth, and help them better their lives.

However, it will likely require improvements to wireless infrastructure, higher bandwidth and more reliable connections. Hence, the company is hoping to design, build, and launch a high-altitude solar-powered plane, in the hopes that a fleet of these aircrafts would deliver worldwide internet access in time to come. Chiliads of such drones powered by sunlight that will fly for months at a time, could make internet connectivity both available and cheaper.

It is worth mentioning that in Aug 2013, Facebook initiated the creation of ‘internet.org’, to bring online services to underserved areas. Since then, the company has been making aggressive moves in futuristic tech services like artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

In addition to Aquila, Facebook is “designing different technologies for different use cases” in its quest to connect the world that will be combined to “create flexible and extensible networks”. Facebook also aims to curtail connectivity cost with these latest next gen technologies.

At Facebook's annual global developer conference F8, the company mentioned that it was testing Terragraph, its multi-node wireless system, which augments connectivity in congested urban areas.

More importantly, Facebook is working on Tether-tenna, a small helicopter “tethered to a fiber line” which can build an “insta-infrastructure” and beam internet in areas affected by natural disasters, thus helping people stranded in those areas to remain connected to the world.

Zacks Rank and Share Price Movement

At present, Facebook carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We note that Facebook has outperformed the Zacks categorized Internet - Services industry on a year-to-date basis. The company’s shares increased 31.2% compared with the industry’s gain of 26.9%.

Stocks to Consider

Better-ranked stocks worth consideration in the broader tech space include TiVo Corporation TIVO, Quantum Corporation QTM, and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. MRVL all sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

TiVo Corporation, Quantum Corporation, and Marvell Technology Group have delivered average positive earnings surprises of 67.56%, 43.75% and 86.70% respectively in the trailing four quarters.

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