Facebook Drone Crash Caused by Wind Gusts, Wing Failure

December 22, 2016

Federal investigators say Facebook’s unmanned aircraft crashed while landing because strong winds broke a wing.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said Silicon Valley-based Facebook wants a fleet of high-flying aircraft that can be deployed to send internet signals to remote parts of the world.

The social media company’s solar-powered aircraft, Aquila, crashed during its first test flight June 28 near Yuma, Arizona. Wind gusts were about twice as strong as the aircraft could handle, according to a National Transportation Safety Board final report released Friday.

The wing damage occurred as the aircraft was about 20 feet off the ground and flying at about 29 mph at the Yuma Proving Ground, a U.S. Army installation in southwestern Arizona.

“The operators’ post-flight telemetry analysis showed that the aircraft experienced significant deviations in pitch, roll and airspeed, consistent with turbulence during the final approach,” the report said.

The NTSB report says the test aircraft was “substantially damaged” by the wing’s structural failure and the ground impact but there were no injuries or ground damage.

Zuckerberg wrote in a July 21 post on Facebook that the flight was a success because of all the data collected. The post didn’t mention the June crash of the test plane.

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