A prototype of a large, solar-powered Google drone crashed during a test in New Mexico, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
The unmanned aircraft is part of Google’s plans to deliver Internet service using high-altitude drones. The drone, a Solara 50 from Titan Aerospace, appears to have crashed shortly after takeoff during a test on May 1. No one was injured in the accident, said U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Keith Holloway. The board is still investigating the incident. It fell under the board’s jurisdiction because, under U.S. law, any accident suffered by a drone weighing more than 300 pounds must be investigated by the NTSB.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is also monitoring the investigation, according to statements acquired by Bloomberg.
The Solara 50 is a 164-meter long drone designed to stay aloft for as long as five years, Bloomberg said. Google bought its parent company, Titan Aerospace, in 2014 for an undisclosed amount of money.
Google plans to use “floating cell tower” drones like this one to bring Internet access to remote markets where conventional access might be difficult. The Solara 50 is designed to fly above the weather, where it would have direct access to sunlight and serve essentially as an internet-dispensing satellite.
Shortly after its acquisition of Titan Aerospace, Google also purchased satellite maker Skybox as part of the race to provide Internet around the world. Their primary rival in that race is Facebook, which recently purchased high-altitude drone company Ascenta after their attempt to acquire Titan Aerospace failed.